Living in Japan is wonderful! One thing I really like about it is having incredible students. One of my English-lesson students, Taeko, actually showed me how to make takoyaki! It’s one of those Japanese foods that I really like eating here in Japan, but have never had the courage to try making on my own. If you’re not the best of cooks, like me, take heart, because making takoyaki isn’t as complicated as you may think. If I can do this, you can do this. In essence, if you have takoyaki batter, diced octopus, and a takoyaki-maker, you can cook up some rudimentary takoyaki. But it’s always nice to add all of those little, special ingredients that give your takoyaki just a little bit of oomph.
WHAT IS TAKOYAKI EXACTLY? Takoyaki*, is a very popular Japanese food. To put it simply, takoyaki is a battered, pan-grilled, octopus dumpling. Takoyaki methods will vary from person to person and from cook to cook, but the fundamental concept remains the same, it’s a dumpling with octopus inside. You can often find food vendors selling takoyaki at food stands in just about any festival you go to in Japan. Your local Japanese supermarket generally has them, too.
*I often make the mistake of calling them squid dumplings, but takoyaki are definitely made from octopus meat. The Japanese word for squid, on the other hand is “ika.”*
TAKOYAKI INGREDIENTS & SUPPLIES:
Takoyakiki (Takoyaki pan)
Takoyaki probes -Takoyaki batter (Unfortunately I didn’t get the exact ingredients for the batter from Taeko, but as soon as I do, I’ll post an updated version)
Diced Tako (Octopus)
Benishoga (Pickled Ginger)
Negi (Green Onions)
Ebi (Dried Shrimp)
Tenkasu (Tempura Scraps)
Katsuobushi or (Fish Shavings)
Takoyaki in Ten Easy Steps
Step 1. Oil your takoyaki pan.
Step 2. Add takoyaki batter- Using a ladle, pour takoyaki batter into each of the takoyaki pan wells.
Step 3. Add tako (octopus) to each well.
Step 4. Add benishoga (pickled ginger) to each well.
Step 5. Add negi (green onions) to each well.
Step 6. Add dried shrimp (ebi) to each well.
Step 7. Add tenkasu (tempura scraps) to each takoyaki well.
Step 8. Add another layer of takoyaki batter- You can be generous with the batter this time. Even if the wells overflow with batter, it’s okay.
Step 9. Do a bit of takoyaki surgery- Use the takoyaki probes to “section off” wells, and shape the takoyaki into their characteristic spherical shape.
Step 10. Keep turning the takoyaki until the dumplings are golden brown.
Optional Adding okonomiyaki sauce really brings out the takoyaki’s flavor. You can garnish the takoyaki with katsuobushi, fish shavings.
I know eating octopus sounds extremely strange to some people, I know it did to me before coming to Japan. Octopus sounds like an ingredient that should be boiling in some witch’s cauldron instead of being stocked in your refrigerator. I know. But I encourage you to give them a try, because I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Takoyaki is a truly tasty Japanese food, and I’m not talking about an acquired taste natto (fermented, sock-smelling, soybeans). You can actually enjoy them the very first time you eat them.
Itadakimasu!- (Kind of like saying “Thanks for the meal!” in Japanese)