Table of Contents
What is Takoyaki
Takoyaki is one of Osaka’s most popular street food and directly translates to ‘Octopus’ (Tako) and ‘Fried’ (Yaki). They are great to eat on the street or even to make at home with friends and family! These small ‘Octopus balls’ are small pieces of octopus in a dumpling like batter, topped with a variety of toppings.
History of Takoyaki
The birth of Takoyaki is said to have originated in 1933 by Tomeyoshi Endo, who founded the store Aizuya in Osaka. Within Aizuya, Mr. Endo made Rajio-yaki, which contained beef tendons, flavoured with soy sauce. These were similar to the takoyaki we know today but with different ingredients used. Further developing his rajio-yaki, he became influenced by Akashiyaki. Akayashi are small dumpling like snacks made from eggs and octopus from Hyogo prefecture. From there, Mr. Endo started to used octopus and chicken eggs, creating the takoyaki we know today. During this time, takoyaki was created with dashi, which helped season the inside of the dough. As a result, there were eaten plain, without any toppings. Before World War Two, takoyaki started to become more widespread throughout Osaka and Japan. Different variations such as eating with a soup or soy sauce became more popular.
After the Second World War, tonkatsu sauce was invented. This is a deep flavoured, enhanced adaption of Worcestershire sauce. Tonkatsu sauce became a popular topping for takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Hereafter, the spread of takoyaki exacerbated and soon there was said to be 5,000 takoyaki shops in Osaka. At that time, 4 – 6 pieces usually cost around just 10 yen! These takoyaki contained octopus, which cut into small pieces and called the ‘tooth’ of the takoyaki.
During the mid 1960s, stalls in Tokyo and other Kanto regions, started to appear. These stalls adapted the takoyaki and added other ingredients such as minced shrimp. From this point, the popularity really started to ramp up and frozen takoyaki as well as various chain stores were created.
Tools to make Takoyaki
There are a variety of takoyaki moulds that can be bought. The first is a cast iron mould, which can be hung above a gas stove. The second is a stove and mould joint into one. This burner is specially devised to evenly heat the whole mould so that the takoyaki can cook evenly. Lastly, an electric heated mould with various settings to control the heat. This is probably the most common and easy to use at home.
Two main types of moulds are used. The first is a gas connected mould, which is heated by city/propane gas. These are cast iron pans, which the cook will rotate the takoyaki by themselves. Most are made from cast iron, however there are some made from copper. Since copper has good conductivity, it can help good the takoyaki quickly. However, the copper can burn easily so it takes a skilled chef to handle the takoyaki properly. The second is an electrical machine, which the iron plate vibrates, helping the takoyaki to rotate.
Konatsugi is a small pot that helps pour the takoyaki batter evenly across the mould.
Gimlets are sharp metal utensils that helps to turn the takoyaki quickly and delicately. They are made long so that your hands are not near the heat and do not get burnt. However, if copper moulds are used, the gimlets are made from bamboo to reduce damage to the copper.
Finally, the oiling brush is specially designed so that it can easily brush the inside of each takoyaki mould. Therefore, most of them are made form bundling cotton together to have both heat resistance and oil permeability.
You can buy a full set of Takoyaki equipment HERE.
Dashi Flavoured Batter
The batter contains dashi, all purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, salt and sometime soy sauce. The use of dashi helps give more umami flavour to the batter, however water can be used as a replacement. In some asian supermarkets, you may be able to find takoyaki mix. Using this, you just have to add water/dashi to create the batter.
You can also easily buy a dashi stock powder on amazon HERE
Octopus can be bought already boiled or raw. However, if you are planning to make a lot of takoyaki, buying boiled octopus is recommended. However, if you buy raw octopus, it will be more tender and fresh.
Beni shouga are red pickled ginger, which have a refreshing spicy kick to the dish as well as helping to cut through some of the heaviness from the batter.
Tempura scraps can be bought from Asian supermarkets. These are small crispy excess parts from tempura batter. They offer an extra umami punch as well as a nice crunchy texture.
Much like beni shouga, these offer a nice pungent kick as well as a vibrant green colour!
The beauty of Takoyaki is that you can literally add anything you want inside! You can add your favourite seafood or even meats. One of my favourites is scallops! Another popular one is kimchi and cheese. This has a delicious spicy flavour and the melted string cheese pairs perfectly with it!
Similiar to Okonomi sauce, tonkatsu sauce is sweet and umami rich. It helps balance some of the saltiness from the other ingredients.
Japan’s most famous mayonnaise, made by Kewpie, isn’t like your normal mayonnaise. One of the main differences is the use of egg yolks instead of whole eggs contributing in a rich and creamy mayo. As a result, there is a punchier kick and the final sprinkle of MSG adds the extra umami flavour. This mayonnaise creates a fantastic balance between the sweet and umami packed tonkatsu sauce and the creamy mayonnaise.
There are different types of seaweed but the one used for takoyaki is called Nori in Japanese. Nori kind of acts like a herb, with it being sprinkled on top of the takoyaki. As a result, the unique aroma and fragrance ontop of the umami punch it offers, is a vital topping.
Katsuboshi is the final topping. It is fermented and dried bonito fish, which has been shaven into flakes, offering a deep but subtle taste of fish. It also adds the final umami punch as well as complementing the dashi inside the takoyaki.
Prepare all toppings
Firstly, I like to prepare all the toppings and things that need to be cut. Then place all the other toppings in bowls or on a tray for easy use.
Then cut the octopus into bite size pieces.
110g all purpose flour
2tsp baking powder
pinch of sea salt
300ml dashi (or water if you don’t have dashi)
Firstly, in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together.
From there, add the two eggs and dashi in a separate bowl.
After, add the dashi bit by bit so that it can easily incorporate.
When fully mixed, pour into a jug so that it is easy to pour over the mould.
How to make Takoyaki – The cooking process
Heat the takoyaki pan to around 400 ºF (200 ºC). Make sure to liberally brush the pan with oil.*
After the pan is heated, pour the batter inside. Once heated, add enough batter so that it overfills the pan.*
Add 1-2 pieces of octopus into each mould and sprinkle in the green onions, beni shouga and tempura scraps.
After around 2-3 minutes, the bottom of the takoyaki should be golden brown. Scrape the sides of the overfilled batter and push into each individual mould. Rotate the takoyaki so that the top is now at the bottom. Wait another couple of minutes till golden brown.
Take out of the pan and add your toppings. First goes tonkatsu sauce, then kewpie mayo and then bonito flakes with dried seaweed.
Enjoy but be careful as they are extremely hot on the inside!
Step 1 * Use lots of oil! This will help crisp up the batter as well as preventing any sitcking. The flipping process will be easier and help create a rounder surface.
Step 2 * Generously pour in the batter. It may look like a lot but when you flip the takoyaki, it will be the right amount. In addition, the entire pan should be covered in batter.
Step 4 * This is quite difficult and may take some practice. You want to break the surrounding batter and scrape it into the moulds using skewers. Alongside this, scraping along the inside of each mould will help turn the takoyaki over.
Osaka Takoyaki – Where to find them
Abeno Takoyaki Yamachan
This is a very popular store, located in the Tennoji and Abeno districts. It is quite an unassuming stall that is located in a quiet street behind the Abueno Harukas. The real secret is in the stock they use to mix with the flour. It’s not just an ordinary dashi stock but one that is made from a variety of vegetable and fruits! Furthermore, chicken and bonito broth is added and then simmered for 4 hours to create a deep, concentrated stock. Although octopus is the main ingredient, the batter is just as important as it makes up most of the dish. This unique, delicious takoyaki is a must try!
Address: 〒545-0052 大阪市阿倍野区阿倍野筋1-2-34
One of my personal favourite places is TakoTako in Noda, Osaka. They have a variety of flavours available and are a little bigger than the normal takoyaki size. On top of this, the chef does not use any other ingredients inside the takoyaki, apart from octopus. Furthermore, he uses a special oil, that helps flavour and crisp the outside of the takoyaki. This means that the batter is essential in adding the umami punch that the other fillings offer. Finally, their 8 piece set is just 350 yen and is an absolute bargain for the quality and size.
Address: 〒553-002 大阪府 大阪市福島区 鷺洲 1-1-7
Chain Store – Gindaco
One of the biggest chain stores is Gindaco. These are located all over Japan and offer great Takoyaki at a reasonable price. Furthermore, they offer 8, 16 and 24 piece sets as well as a variety of flavours. You can enjoy flavours such as scallion and cheese, lemon and ponzu and of course, regular takoyaki. I would highly recommend this chain if you are ever travelling around and fancy a quick bite to eat.
Address: Multiple Locations all over Japan
In the basement floor of most department stores, there will be a selection of hot and cold foods available. In some cases, there will be a takoyaki stall, where you can enjoy freshly cooked takoyaki. These stalls may not have many flavour options but are a great way to enjoy takoyaki if you are about shopping.
If you are ever struggling for something to eat, you can find pre-cooked takoyaki in most supermarkets. These have all the toppings and are a good snack for very cheap. However, they won’t be piping hot so may require some heating up in a microwave to enjoy fully!
In conclusion I love enjoying takoyaki with friends and family. We often have takoyaki parties, buying various ingredients to enjoy different flavours. Furthermore, they pair well with beer and is a great way to spend an evening. As there are plenty of chain stores available, it also makes a great snack for on the go! However, for the most delicious and authentic takoyaki, Osaka’s street stalls are the place to go to!