A couple of years ago a good friend of mine gave me an electric takoyaki maker for my birthday. Takoyaki literally translated means octopus fried, but they aren’t just fried octopus – they’re tiny, piping hot balls of batter filled with green onions, ginger, crispy tempura bits and octopus. It’s crisp, it’s gooey, it’s delicious.
The best Japanese street food
Takoyaki is one of Osaka’s quintessential street foods. Thankfully for us (especially these days), you don’t have to travel to Osaka to try them – they’re basically found everywhere in Japan and are quite popular in North America too. If you ever come across a takoyaki stand, stay awhile and check out the takoyaki makers. They’re mesmerizing.
Professional takoyaki chefs have rows and rows of cast iron pans with half spherical molds. A dashi flavoured batter is poured into the molds and then each ball gets a piece of octopus, some ginger, and green onions. When the bottom of the balls are cooked, they’re flipped with skewers so that the inside batter flows out to create the other side of the ball. It’s amazing to watch a real pro.
They’re fast, furious and churn out the little balls like there’s no tomorrow.
Why you should make takoyaki at home
Takoyaki need quite a few ingredients and a specialized pan, but I think it’s worth it. You can find a takoyaki pan on amazon.com or you can use an ebelskiver (Danish pancake) pan. As for the insides, octopus is classic, but feel free to put in shrimp, chicken, or whatever savoury filling you like. I like to do a combo of octopus, squid and shrimp. I also throw in some mozzarella cheese to get an crispy toasted cheese outside with an extra gooey cheesy inside. If you’ve never seen takoyaki being made, do a youtube search, it’ll give a good starting point for how to flip the little balls around.
What is takoyaki?
Takoyaki are a Japanese street snack that originated in the city of Osaka. They are little round balls of batter that are slightly crispy on the outside and a bit soft and gooey on the inside, stuffed with a little nugget of octopus, tempura bits, and green onions. Typically they serve them up in little wooden boats, brushed with takoyaki sauce, drizzled with Japanese kewpie mayo, and topped with bonito flakes and seaweed. They come with skewers or chopsticks to pick them up. They’re super popular and probably one of the most well known Japanese foods out there. Charmingly, you can almost always see people standing around the stands fanning their mouths because the takoyaki is too hot. Takoyaki is pure comfort food.
What does takoyaki taste like?
Takoyaki are delicious! They’re super savory and full of umami. They’re piping hot when they are served, so be careful when you eat them. The outsides are just a touch crispy and the inside batter is seasoned, soft, and kind of gooey that melts in your mouth. The little nugget of octopus inside is supposed to contrast with the softness of batter. Green onions add a bit of freshness, beni shoga (pickled ginger) adds a hint of sweet and sour, and crispy tempura bits add even more richness. The sauce and mayo on top adds another layer of flavor. Takoyaki are so incredibly full of umami. The perfect bite!
On mushiness: sometimes people are surprised by the texture of takoyaki. Is takoyaki supposed to be mushy? The answer is, yes, it’s supposed to be a little runny and gooey inside. It’s not exactly mushy, it’s more gooey like melty cheese. The gooey-ness is what most vendors aim for because the contrast is what makes takoyaki special. But, if you’re not a fan of gooey, you can be cook them all the way through. It just means that your balls will be a tiny bit more firm and structured than the ones you’ll find in Japan.