Takoyaki is a well-loved Japanese street food that pops up at summer festivals across Japan. They’re basically round fluffy dough balls with octopus in the centre and are topped with a special takoyaki sauce. Takoyaki, which is infamous for its octopus filling, evolved from rajioyaki (Radio-yaki), which have beef tendon and konjac jelly inside instead! It is still a mystery dish to some Aussies, so keep scrolling to find out more!
All About Takoyaki!
So, what is takoyaki? The English translation, Japanese octopus balls, doesn’t quite sell it. Takoyaki is made from a pancake-like batter, which is poured into a special machine with half-sphere holes and octopus placed inside. It is topped with green onion, a sauce similar to worcestershire and bonito flakes. As a popular dish at festivals, it is prepared at food stands in front of customers.
Takoyaki can also be found in supermarkets, convenience stores and speciality Takoyaki stores. You can even make it at home! Takoyaki is typically served fresh off the plate, so give it a bit of time to cool by opening a cold bevvy.
The origins of Takoyaki
According to locals, takoyaki was conceived in Osaka by a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo in 1935, who decided to experiment with a previous dish by adding small pieces of octopus to it.
The takoyaki that is consumed today supposedly began with another dish called the choboyaki. Choboyaki is made in a similar manner, but its form resembles a flat rectangle. Rajioyaki, named after the popular invention of the time in Japan, the radio, was also developed from choboyaki.
Choboyaki – looks like a flat version of takoyaki
The classic sphere shape was introduced with rajioyaki, but was usually filled with beef tendon and konjac belly. Rajioyaki variations included replacing the beef with octopus and so, Japanese octopus balls, takoyaki, were born!
Rajioyaki – takoyaki’s predecessor
Since then, the dish has delighted the taste buds of many and is easily spotted at Japanese festivals being sold in stalls called yatai. It has spread across the world and many places have their own take on traditional takoyaki by creating unique flavours, such as cheese-filled or teriyaki and fried egg topping.
Takoyaki Recipe: What you need
The most important ingredient of Takoyaki is cut octopus placed in the centre in a flour batter. The flavour can be changed to your liking with a variety of ingredients, from seasonal vegetables to ginger, green onion, cheese or tempura bits called tenkasu. If you prefer something spicy, kimchi is a great addition. Whether you’re making tradtional takoyaki with octopus or adding something totally different, these ball-shaped snacks are fun to make with friends and family!
Traditional takoyaki recipe (makes 50)
– Batter: 200g flour, 1 large egg, 2 tsp (10ml) soy sauce, 1 tbsp dashi, 1/4 tsp (1.2ml) Salt, 500ml water
– Filling: 140-170g octopus, cut into small pieces
– Topping: 2-3 green onions finely chopped, 2tsp pickled red ginger
How to Make Takoyaki at Home
Special takoyaki pans with half-spherical molds makes this dish easy to cook. First, fill the molds with the batter, then add the octopus and other ingredients.
After 2 minutes, turn each ball with a toothpick, a chopstick, or a specially designed takoyaki turner if you can get your hands on one. Cook the takoyaki for another 3 or 4 minutes, until they are golden brown.
When your takoyaki is well cooked, add various toppings, such as takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito 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 heaps of oil.
Apply oil everywhere (inside and around the holes). The oil gives the takoyaki a crispy skin and it’ll be easier for you to flip.
Tip 2: Pour in a lot of batter
When you see smoke coming from the plate, fill the hole with the batter. If it overflows, that’s totally fine. The entire grill top should be filled with batter after adding octopus and other ingredients in the hole.
Tip 3: Flip 90 degrees and add extra batter.
Use skewers to cut off excess batter around the hole. Once the bottom of the takoyaki balls are crispy, rotate 90 degrees to allow the dough to be stuffed into the hole. This will help create a perfectly rounded ball.
The heat is not evenly distributed on a home takoyaki grill, so don’t forget to turn the balls around once they have formed a ball to ensure they are evenly browned.
Do You Like Japan’s Fast Food, Takoyaki?
Have you tried different takoyaki toppings? Please share your experiences below!