Japanese cuisine is gaining popularity all around the world. The diversity of tastes and aromas, the unique healthy properties and the aesthetic form are just a few of its outstanding qualities. Places where you an enjoy sushi or ramen can now be found in basically all cities. More and more bars that offer Japanese street food, such as okonomiyaki or takoyaki – golden octopus balls – keep emerging.

Food for soul

Takoyaki たこ焼 is one of the most popular Japanese snacks, often referred to as soul food. The dish comes from Osaka, and its name is the combination of two words: tako, which means ‘octopus,’ and yaku, that is ‘fry’ or ‘bake.’ It can be found in many eateries, yatai street stalls and bought during local fêtes or festivals. The way of eating differs among various regions of Japan. Long skewers are used in Kinki, while chopsticks are customary in Tokyo. Traditional takoyaki was served in a form similar to a shish kebab – three balls on bamboo skewers. Today, this is how the dish is served in Seto, the Aichi prefecture, the difference being that only two balls are skewered on the sticks.

The history of the dish

In the 1930s, Tomekichi Endō – an owner of Osaka-based restaurant Aizuya – began culinary experiments, combining rajio-yaki (a ball-shaped snack with beef inside) with ashiyaki (fried pie made of eggs with seafood filling). This is the genesis of takoyaki, which was first served with soy sauce or without any additions. Original takoyaki are available in Aizuya to this day. Their taste has been appreciated by food critics, and the restaurant found its way to the Michelin guide.

Takoyaki – recipe

Takoyaki usually consists of fluffy dough and the filling. The classic version (Osaka style) has octopus pieces, which are replaced in other variants with meat, sausages, shrimps or hard cheese. The basic ingredients used to prepare the dough are: eggs, water, flour and the dashi stock. In Kyoto and the Kant region, some of the flour is substituted with chopped cabbage. This Japanese octopus dish is prepared using special cast-iron pans known as takoyaki-ki or takoyaki-nabe and a cooking plate. The hollows in the frying pan are covered with oil and then filled with the dough, with a piece of octopus placed in the middle. When the dough sets, the balls are flipped and fried until golden brown.

Sides to takoyaki

Takoyaki can be served with a bit of marinated beni shōga ginger, chives, green onion, tenkasu – tiny bits of deep fried batter, and dried tuna flakes or aonori algae. Additionally, the dish can be poured over with soy sauce, mayonnaise or okonomiyaki sauce, which consists of ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, mirin or sweet wine.

Japanese style

Takoyaki is an octopus dish that has won the hearts of the Japanese and it is becoming largely appreciated all over the world. More and more sushi restaurants add these small fluffy dough balls to their menus. Those who like culinary experiments may also buy a takoyaki pan and prepare the Japanese classic street food at home.

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