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 takoyaki isn’t just fried octopus – it’s a tiny, piping hot ball of batter filled with green onions, ginger, crispy tempura bits and octopus. It’s crisp, it’s gooey, it’s delicious.
Takoyaki is one of Osaka’s quintessential street foods. Thankfully for us, you don’t have to travel to Osaka for takoyaki – 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 makers 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 takoyaki maker. They’re fast, furious and churn out the little balls like there’s no tomorrow.
I’m no takoyaki master, but I sure do like the zen feeling that comes over me while I try to make perfectly spherical takoyaki. I’ve only ever used my pan once so when my friend wanted to bring over her takoyaki pan and have a takoyaki party I was pretty excited. I even wanted to have a takoyaki off with one of my Japanese friends but he declined, saying it wasn’t a fair contest as I would no doubt win. Non-contest aside, we had a great time making individualized takoyakis. Everyone thought they tasted just like the takoyaki vendors.
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.
Takoyaki Recipe from justhungry.com
yield: approximately 60 balls
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 liter (4 1/4 cups) of cold water
- 3 grams salt
- 1/2 teaspoon kombu dashi stock granules
- 1/2 teaspoon katsuo dashi stock granules
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- cubes of boiled octopus, or your choice of cooked, cubed protein (you could use shrimp, squid, chicken, hot dogs, etc)
- sliced green onions
- tempura bits or rice krispies
- shredded cheese
- Japanese mayonaise
- Takoyaki sauce (you can buy this in a bottle at most Asian groceries, it usually has a picture of takoyaki on the front)
- bonito flakes
- aonori (powdered seaweed) or seaweed strips
Beat the eggs and add the water, and stock granules. Add the egg-water mixture to the flour and salt and mix well. Heat up your pan and oil the individual compartments with a oil brush or use a paper towel dipped in oil.
Pour the batter into the individual compartments up to the top. Don’t worry if the batter over flows a bit. Add green onions, your protein, tempura bits or rice krispies, and shredded cheese (is using).
After a while, the bottom of the takoyakis will be cooked through. At this point, you can use a skewer to turn them over 90 degrees. If you can’t turn the takoyaki easily, it probably needs to cook for a bit longer. Wait a minute or so and then do another 90 degree turn. The balls will become easier to turn the more they cook.
The takoyaki are done when they’re lightly brown and crispy on the outside and they turn easily in their holes. Overall I’d say it takes about 10 minutes per batch, from start to finish.
To serve, place the takoyaki on a plate and drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce. Genrously sprinkle on the bonito flakes and aonori. Enjoy, but be careful, the insides are hot!
*If you’re feeling lazy, just go ahead and buy the prepackaged takoyaki flour at an Asian supermarket. All you need to do is add water and eggs.