Takoyaki is a Japanese street food particularly iconic of Osaka, where the dish is said to have been invented in 1935. Literally meaning ‘fried octopus’, it’s addictively delicious and great fun to make, especially for
October 9th, 2015 | Text: David Rollins Photography: Rob Lee
If the idea of octopus-stuffed dough balls smothered in dried fish flakes and seaweed is unappealing to you, you’ve likely never had takoyaki. They are arrestingly delicious. The Internet is full of lists of the ‘best’ places to eat takoyaki in Osaka, and there are several different ways of preparing and serving them. But they’re traditionally little more than a simple batter of dashi and wheat flour, with chunks of octopus and green onion, fried into little balls and topped with mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce, benishoga, katsuobushi, and aonori. What are all these Japanese ingredients? Things that are really fun to shop for, and really delicious to eat.
You’re likely to be able to find everything you need in a good Asian grocery store, including a takoyaki pan, which comes in two formats – a stove-top cast iron pan, or a tabletop plug-in pan (which is also very cute, and can be placed centrestage at parties).
If you just happen to already have a pan for making aebelskivers, congratulations! It’s just graduated from being a single-use kitchen tool; you can also use it to make takoyaki.
is an essential
Dashi is a simple broth that’s essential to traditional Japanese cooking. It’s made by simmering kombu (a kind of seaweed) with katsuobushi, which is very fine shavings of smoked bonito (tuna). It looks like fluffy pencil shavings, and has a rich, bacony flavour. Takoyaki sauce is a sweet-sour condiment that’s sold readymade. (You can replace it with this very delicious home-made okonomyaki sauce.) Benishoga is pickled ginger, like the kind you eat on sushi, but it’s also available cut into bright pink little matchsticks, which are very cute, and cuteness is an essential aspect of good takoyaki. Aonori is a kind of powdered seaweed with a very mild flavour – I think it’s used more for its colour, like dried parsley.
is also part
of the fun.”
The only slightly tricky thing about making takoyaki is turning them, and getting the heat just right. If you’re using a cast iron pan, you want it to be hot, but not so hot that the first one is burning before you’ve filled the pan. A tabletop pan will not get this hot, so instead of being ready in about 4-5 minutes, it can take 15 or even 20. In terms of turning, it’s like flipping a steak. If they’re sticking, they’re not ready. Use a chopstick or skewer to push down on one side of the cooking dough – it should turn in place. It takes a little practice, but by the second batch you’ll have it mastered. The only other advice we have is don’t worry about making them perfectly round and keeping the pan perfectly clean as you cook. The mess is also part of the fun.
makes about 24
NOTE: The heat should be high enough that the takoyaki are browning on the bottom before the top is cooked. If this is not the case, you may want to spoon a little more batter into the cups as you turn them, to help make a more spherical shape.
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups dashi
- 3 green onions, slivered
- 4 oz. cooked octopus, diced
- sesame oil
- okonomiyaki sauce
- shichimi togarashi
- Mix the flour, eggs and dashi together in a large mixing bowl. The batter should have the consistency of potato soup.
- Oil each of the ‘cups’ in the pan with sesame oil, and heat the pan. Once it’s hot, spoon batter into each cup, nearly to the top. Add a few octopus and green onion pieces, and add more batter to completely fill each cup.
- When the dough is no longer sticking to the pan and has become a light golden brown, begin turning the takoyaki. To turn, use a chopstick or skewer to push down on one side. Turn about 90 degrees, continue cooking, turn again, continue cooking… They’re done when they’re mostly browned, and mostly round. Garnish and serve immediately.
makes 4 cups
- 4 cups water
- 1 6-inch piece of kombu, rinsed
- 1 ½ cups katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
Steep the water and kombu for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan and remove the kombu. Add the katsuobushi and turn remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 15 minutes, then strain.