There’s a whole vast selection of Japanese street foods that most people don’t know about, and takoyaki is one of the better ones.
What is takoyaki? The word literally translates as fried octopus, but they contain additional ingredients as well beyond just the fried cephalopod. They may contain a little seasoning, particularly ginger, as well as green onion or other herbs, all kept together in fried batter. When made properly, takoyaki is crispy and sticky and very tasty.
What Is Takoyaki Made Of?
Takoyaki are these little fried balls that always contain octopus but may also have other seafood in there, as well as a little green herb like cilantro or green onion for color, texture, and flavor.
The batter’s really important, as it holds the entire ball together and creates the shape for takoyaki. There’s usually some herbs and spices in there as well, and it may have some bits tempura too (that’s a batter mixture that Japan is famous for).
What does takoyaki taste like? That depends on what you put into it, how long you fry it, what the batter is made of, and even what sauces you serve with it. It’s usually fried and crispy with the chewy, seafood taste to it. The ginger flavor tends to be very mild, as you wouldn’t usually put a lot of that in it.
The taste and texture is comparable to fried shrimp, particularly golden batter fried shrimp because they both have a similarly smooth crispy texture.
What Is a Takoyaki Pan?
Takoyaki pans look a lot like muffin pans, but the indentations are smaller and shaped like half of a sphere. These indentations are about the size of golf balls, and they’re the right size for takoyaki balls. You can just pour your batter in there and it will come out puffy and shaped perfectly when it’s done cooking.
How to Make Takoyaki
If you’ve ever seen a takoyaki chef’s set up, you’ll see they have lots of round molds. That allows them to quickly make takoyaki balls and throw all sorts of different ingredients in there without having to worry about making the shape just right. The mold does a lot of the work for them.
I’m going to share with you a method for making takoyaki at home.
Note: The recipe below makes 64 takoyaki balls, so if you want fewer than that, you can cut the recipe down.
- 2 teaspoons of instant dashi
- 2 1/2 cups of flour
- 3 eggs, beaten lightly
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 4 1/4 cups of cold water
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
- 1 cup of tempura bits
- 1/2 pound of boiled octopus, cut into cubes
- Pickled ginger
- Japanese mayonnaise, for topping
- Takoyaki sauce, for topping
- Bonito flakes, for topping
- In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly and then add in dashi and water. Set the mixture side in a separate bowl, mix together flour and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
- Heat up the takoyaki pan and brush each of the compartments with a little bit of cooking oil.
- Once the pan is heated, pour a little bit of batter into each of the compartments, filling all the way to the top. Try not to let it overflow, but it’s OK if it does just a little bit.
- Add in tempura bits, ginger, green onions, and octopus.
- The bottom of your takoyaki will be cooked after a while, and then you can use one or two skewers to turn them 90 degrees.
- If it doesn’t turn without a lot of trouble, then it probably needs to cook for a few minutes more. If you’re batter compartments are not full, you can add more batter to fill them. Turn the balls once more after a minute or two of cooking, turning 90 degrees again. Cook them until they achieve a golden brown color and have a crispy texture on the outside. They should be able to turn easily within the takoyaki pan holes. It should take around 10 to 15 minutes for them to cook.
- You can then serve up the takoyaki balls on a plate and drizzle with your toppings.
What Is Takoyaki Sauce?
Takoyaki sauce is a dark sauce that you’ll use to drizzle over the takoyaki balls or dip them in. You can buy it pre-made in most Asian groceries or in the ethnic aisle of the grocery, but you can also make it at home with just a few ingredients.
To make homemade takoyaki sauce, mix together ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and tsuyu (which is concentrated noodle soup base). If you’ve used the right ratios, the sauce should be thin and watery.
How to Eat Takoyaki
Takoyaki balls can be served on their own, drizzled with sauce and topped with shredded cheese, bonito flakes, or Japanese mayonnaise, as well as many other toppings.
They can also be served as part of a larger meal, and they pair nicely with rice, stir fry, soup, salad, and meat dishes. They also make a good addition to a seafood meal spread.
They should be served hot, shortly after coming out of the takoyaki pan. If they are allowed to cool or they’ve been reheated after being refrigerated, they may not have the right texture. They may lose some of their crispiness and become a little soggy, so they’re best when served fresh.
What Is Yakoyaki Balls?
You may have heard the term yakoyaki when speaking about Japanese street food, but this is a misnomer. There’s no such thing as yakoyaki balls, and someone who has said this made up word has probably meant to say takoyaki.
Because takoyaki balls are not known everywhere around the world, they may be called by the wrong name at times. If you’re not sure what you’re ordering at a street food vendor or from a restaurant and you want to make sure you’re getting takoyaki, just ask what is inside it. If it’s fried octopus, as well as some other ingredients, you know you’re getting the right thing.