Crispy and savory fried batter balls with a springy piece of octopus hidden in the center, topped with a savory brown sauce, smooth, creamy Japanese mayonnaise, powdery aonori seaweed flakes, and dancing bonito shavings make up one of Japan’s most beloved street foods. Takoyaki first became popular in the city of Osaka, located in the western part of Japan, during the 1930s. From there, the dish quickly spread east to Tokyo then throughout the rest of Japan. Takoyaki is typically eaten as a street food, purchased from convenience stores and roadside stalls, and as a bar food, commonly enjoyed at izakaya-- the Japanese version of a pub.
Perhaps the most distinct feature of takoyaki is the shape. The unique ball-like form of takoyaki is produced using a specialized pan and frying method that involves using a chopstick or skewer to carefully rotate overflowing batter into a spherical shape. A takoyaki pan somewhat resembles a mini-muffin pan. They are made of non-stick metal and indented with several rows of hemispherical cups. Though in contrast to muffin pans, takoyaki pans for home use are often circular for better heat conduction overtop of a stove burner.
Being that takoyaki is, by origin, a street food, the ingredients have the potential to be highly customizable so long as five core tenants of its construction are abided by. You will need dashi-flavored batter, which you can mix yourself or purchase premade much like pancake mix, a filling for the center of the takoyaki-- traditionally octopus but easily substitutable with shrimp, hot dog pieces, or even corn, diced scallion, finely chopped benishoga, a type of Japanese pickled ginger, and tenkasu. The dish is completed with its signature toppings-- a brown, worcestershire-like sauce called takoyaki sauce, a drizzle of Japanese mayo, aonori powder and bonito flakes. Use the following guide to make your own takoyaki at home!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Makes approximately 25 pieces of takoyaki
12 floz. water
1 scallion, finely chopped
4 oz boiled octopus, finely chopped (or whatever filling you plan on using)
⅓ cup tenkasu
1 tbsp benishoga, finely chopped
2tbsp neutral flavored oil (canola oil works well)
To make the batter:
Weigh out 4oz of takoyaki flour into a large bowl.
Add water and eggs.
Mix thoroughly until the batter is smooth, much like crepe batter.
Once the batter is made, heat the takoyaki pan on the stove over medium heat until it is about 400F.
Generously brush oil over the entirety of the pan, making sure to cover both the cups and flat area of the pan completely. This will help keep the takoyaki from sticking to the pan and being impossible to turn.
Pour batter into the greased takoyaki pan, filling each of the cups nearly to the point of overflow. Carefully place a small piece of boiled octopus in each of the pan’s cups, and then sprinkle scallion, diced benishoga, and tenkasu overtop of the whole thing.
Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, scrape the overflowed batter and toppings into each cup.
Allow the bottom of the takoyaki to crisp by letting it sit for about a minute, then gently use the skewer to rotate each ball 90 degrees so the uncooked part is in the bottom of the pan cup. Turning the takoyaki to make the ball shape is somewhat challenging and does take a bit of skill so don’t be discouraged if the first few attempts turn out a little lumpy.
Once the balls are finished cooking on the bottom (another 1-2 minutes), use the skewer to pull them out of the pan cups and place them on a plate.
Top with takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, aonori and bonito flakes and serve hot.
If you don’t have a takoyaki pan, you can try this method instead:
Combine all of the ingredients-- batter, benishoga, scallion, octopus and tenkasu-- together in a large bowl and mix until you have something resembling a thick pancake batter. You may have to add a little bit of extra takoyaki mix to attain the desired thickness.
Carefully pour the batter into a silicone ice cube tray and freeze for about six hours.
Heat about ½ to 1 inch of oil in a deep walled frying pan to 300F or 150C and shallow fry the frozen takoyaki batter, turning them until the outside is an even, deep golden brown.
Top with takoyaki sauce, mayo, aonori, and bonito flakes and serve hot.