Takoyaki - or otherwise known as Japanese octopus balls - is a classic Japanese street food dish, especially popular at summer festivals in Japan. Essentially, they’re round balls of fluffy dough that have a special takoyaki sauce and a tasty slice of octopus meat in the core. Although traditional takoyaki is typically filled with octopus pieces, their predecessors named rajioyaki are filled with beef tendon and konjac jelly! Not everyone knows about this dish. Please scroll down to check it out!
The History of Takoyaki!
So, what is the takoyaki, exactly? The English translation, Japanese octopus balls, doesn’t quite give off the right image! Takoyaki are spheres of fried batter, with tender octopus inside, served with other ingredients such as green onion and Japanese ginger. This Japanese street food is prominent at summer festivals, mostly prepared in food stands before the customers.
However, takoyaki can also be found in convenience stores, supermarkets, food trucks, and homes! Bear in mind that takoyaki is typically served piping hot! You can give it a little time to cool down while you’re sipping a beer.
A Brief History of Takoyaki
According to a traditional theory, takoyaki is said to have originated in Osaka, where this delicious octopus dish was invented by a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo in 1935. However, it was not an invention out of the blue, but rather an upgrade of a previous dish (according to some).
Reportedly, it all started with another dish called the choboyaki, the takoyaki prototype we know today. Choboyaki is very similar in its ingredients, but its form is more of a flat rectangle than a single ball. And then we had the rajioyaki developed from choboyaki, possibly named after the famous invention of the time in Japan: the radio.
The signature form of the ball was introduced with rajioyaki, but the dish was usually filled with beef tendon and konjac belly. And eventually, when the beef filling was replaced by octopus cuts, Japanese octopus balls - takoyaki was born!
Since then, the dish has conquered Japan’s taste buds by storm. It is a national dish of Japanese festivals, sold in stalls called yatai. As it spread to shops and restaurants worldwide, various regional varieties of takoyaki have evolved!
Takoyaki Recipe: Ingredients & Preparation
The heart of Takoyaki is chopped octopus, steamed in a batter. The flavour can be enhanced with any form of ingredients, from seasonal vegetables to ginger, green onion, or tempura bites called tenkasu. Whether you’re making a classic version of takoyaki with bits of octopus or other ingredients, these ball-shaped dumplings are fun to make with friends and family!
Traditional takoyaki recipe
– Batter: 2 cups (480ml) of dashi; 2 large eggs; 1 tsp (5ml) soy sauce; 1/4 tsp (1.2ml)
– Salt; 1 cup (240ml) flour
– 5-6 oz (140-170g) octopus, cut into small cubes
– Topping: 2-3 green onions (or scallions), finely chopped; 2tsp (30ml) pickled red ginger
How to Make Takoyaki at Home
Unique takoyaki pans with half-spherical molds make it very simple to prepare this delicious dish: fill the molds with the batter, then add the octopus and other ingredients.
After about 2 minutes of cooking, turn each ball with a toothpick, a chopstick, or a specially designed takoyaki turner. Cook the takoyaki for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the batter is golden brown.
When your takoyaki is well cooked, upgrade your takoyaki with various toppings, such as takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, fish flakes, aonori seaweed, and green onion.
3 Tips to Make Perfect Takoyaki
These three tips are provided by Nami, a Japanese home cook based in San Francisco.
Tip 1: Use a lot of oil.
Apply generous oil everywhere (each hole in the takoyaki pan and surrounding flat areas). The oil allows takoyaki to get a crispy skin, and it’ll be smoother for you to flip without a stuck batter.
Tip 2: Pour the batter generously
When you see the smoke coming out of the grill/plate, fill the hole with the batter. If it overflows, that’s all right. Since the whole grill top should be filled with a dough after adding octopus and other ingredients to the hole, if you use a larger chunk of octopus pieces, you may want to pour just enough into the top of the holes.
Tip 3: Flip 90 degrees and stuff in the extra batter.
Break the extra batter around the hole with skewers. Once the bottom of the takoyaki balls are crispy, rotate 90 degrees to allow the uncooked batter to pour out into the hole. Stuff and push the additional dough inside the balls. This is going to help create a perfectly oval shape.
Each hole does not provide the same amount of heat for the home takoyaki grill. Therefore, it’s important to turn the balls around once they’re in the form of a ball, so they’re evenly browned.
Do You Like Japan’s Popular Food, Takoyaki?
How many types of takoyaki have you tried? Please share your experiences below!