The first time I tried takoyaki was from a street food stall in Japan several years ago. I remember while approaching the food vendor, my initial thoughts were, other than its smaller size, these look like ebleskiver (small, round Danish pancakes about 2 inches in diameter). As for appearances, that’s where the similarities end. Instead of tasting a sweet, fluffy, pancake texture, takoyaki is less dense, crispier on the outside, and has a soft chewy center.
Known mainly as octopus balls outside of Japan, takoyaki is a savory, grilled, Japanese dumpling. “Tako” means octopus, and “yaki” is a term translating to food that’s grilled, broiled or fried. This tasty snack started as street food in the early 1930’s in Osaka, located in the Kansai region of Japan. Its popularity has expanded into most restaurants, food courts, grocery markets, and 24-hour stores. The shell of a takoyaki mainly consists of eggs, flour, and dashi broth. The inside traditionally contains a small piece of octopus sprinkled with scallions, beni shoga (red pickled ginger), tenkasu (tempura scraps), and sakura ebi (ground dried shrimp).
In Japan, it’s a communal experience. If people aren’t buying these delectables, they’re cooking them at home. Takoyaki at home involves friends and family gathered around a table cooking and eating together. Everyone pitches in from making the batter to adding the ingredients for the fillings. There are frozen takoyaki available in Asian markets, but it’s always best eaten fresh and hot – and more fun with friends and family.
|¾||cup cake flour|
|1¾||cups dashi broth (cold)|
|1||tsp. soy sauce|
|½||lbs. boiled octopus – diced into bite-sized pieces no longer than ½ inch (substitute octopus with shrimp)|
|½||cup tempura scraps (substitute with rice crispies cereal or panko bread crumbs)|
|1½||cups red pickled ginger|
|1½||cups chopped scallions|
|1||Tbsp. ground dried shrimp (toasted, then ground into powder)|
Sauces and Garnish
- 2 scallions – thinly chopped
- Bulldog Sauce or Okonomiyaki Sauce (substitute by mixing 4 Tbsp. ketchup with 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce)
- Kewpie Mayonnaise (Japanese Mayo)
- dried bonito flakes (Japanese flakes of dried, smoked tuna fish)
- aonori seasoning (Japanese dried flakes of seaweed used as a seasoning)
1. Takoyaki pan
Oil the takoyaki pan using either pastry or basting brush. Heat the pan on medium high heat. To figure out if the pan is hot enough, drizzle a little of batter mixture on the pan. It should sizzle. If the batter burns within a few seconds, the pan is too hot – turn down the heat a couple notches.
2. Takoyaki batter: egg, dashi broth, soy sauce, salt, cake flour
Mix together egg, soy sauce, salt with cold dashi broth. Add cake flour and mix until all flour has blended in. The consistency of the batter mixture should be as thick as potato soup or thin clam chowder.
3. Cooking takoyaki and the filling: tempura scraps, red pickled ginger, dried shrimp, and scallions
Fill 3/4 of each hole with batter. Place a piece of octopus in the center of each ball. Next, sprinkle each ball with tempura scraps, red pickled ginger, dried shrimp, and scallions. Using a takoyaki pick or bamboo skewers, flip each ball when the shell (outside edges of each ball) has formed a thin layer. If batter oozes out while flipping the balls, that’s normal. Push the batter back into the hole onto the balls. You’ll need to repeat this process several more times to form a ball shape. This process should take about 5-6 minutes until the balls are a light golden brown.
4. final steps
Before serving, drizzle sauce (Bulldog Sauce or Okonomiyaki Sauce) over the takoyaki balls. Followed by a drizzle of Kewpie mayo. Garnish with thin sliced scallions, dried bonito flakes, and a dash of aonori seasoning. Personally, I love extra mayo.