What are takoyaki?
Takoyaki (pronounced “ta-koe-ya-Kee”) are balls of dough filled with a small piece of octopus (tako) on the inside. The balls are baked (yaki) on a special takoyaki plate with indentations. They are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and are served hot with a sauce.
Like okonomiyaki, takoyaki originate from Osaka in the Kansai region of Japan and are a popular street food.
For a classic filling, a cooked octopus tentacle is cut into pieces. But despite the name, the Japanese are creative, so you can also find spring onion, sausage meat or bacon, canned tuna, cheese, corn, kimchi or edamame in the balls.
Did you know...
Takoyaki and okonomiyaki are the two most popular street foods in Japan. You can find takoyaki everywhere – at street vendors, specialised eateries, but also in canteens, food courts and frozen in the supermarket. In Japan, you accompany it with a beer in an izakaya (eatery).
How to make takoyaki
An authentic takoyaki batter is made from hakuriki ko (a flour with low gluten content), eggs, dashi and soy sauce. As with tempura, the batter should not be mixed too enthusiastically – a few lumps do not matter.
Takoyaki is prepared on a dedicated takoyaki plate or in a special electric takoyaki pan. The plate or pan is heated and the takoyaki-shaped indentations are brushed with a neutral oil; for example, peanut oil. A generous batter is poured into each indentation and a piece of octopus added. Usually some tenkasu is also sprinkled over the batter, (small, airy, crispy “tempura flakes”) which may look a bit like popped rice grains, but are actually made from wheat flour. Spring onions and red ginger are occasionally added at this point, or used later as a garnish.
The balls are always rotated a little with sticks and “tucked in” so that the outside becomes nicely smooth, evenly brown and crispy. Good takoyaki are hollow inside; the batter is steam-cooked, giving a wonderfully creamy result.
How to eat
Takoyaki is served with sauce over it. This can be okonomiyaki sauce to taste, but also Japanese mayonnaise or nihaizu – a mixture of dashi, soy sauce and vinegar. Takoyaki is also sometimes sprinkled with katsuobushi (bonito flakes), aonori powder and/or beni shoga (red pickled ginger).
Eat the takoyaki as quickly as possible, when they are still nice and hot.