by Donnie Hayden © 2914, all rights reserved
Well, this title might seem a bit strange, but this is exactly what these delicious treats would be called in English, Octopus balls. 🙂
In Japan, they are called, Takoyaki (pronounced taco + yah-key).
Takoyaki (たこ焼き or 蛸焼 is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter (like tempura). It is cooked in a special takoyaki pan, that resembles a muffin tin. Ours can be placed directly over flame or as most Japanese homes like the pictures show below, they are table top, propane units.
Takoyaki is typically filled with minced or diced octopus tako, tempura scraps tenkasu, negi (chopped Japenese green onion), pickled ginger, and sprinkled with green laver aonori (a type of seaweed) and shavings of dried bonito katsuobuschi (fish flakes).
Once filled and as the batter cooks, the takoyaki is constantly prodded with a stick like a long metal toothpick and turned. This shapes the treat into balls while cooking. And once they are cooked on all sides, to a lovely golden brown, they are done and ready to eat, almost. 🙂
The Takoyaki are then brushed with takoyaki sauce, similar to Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce in color. There are many recipes for the takoyaki and variations for the sauce such as:ponzu (soy sauce with dashi (a clear broth like used in meso soup) and citrus vinegar goma-dare (sesame-and-vinegar sauce) vinegared dashi.
The final step is to squeeze some mayonnaise on top from a tipped-bottle like a ketchup or mustard squeeze bottle. I’m not exactly sure what makes Japanese mayonnaise different from that in our country (USA), but it is; it’s delicious and I love it! And Takoyaki? OMG, these are incredible!!! Eat with a a pointed stick (see last picture below). Each one is about a mouthful.
Takoyaki was first popularized in Osaka Japan when a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo, first introduced his culinary delight in 1935. Takoyaki was inspired by akashiyaki, a small round dumpling from the city of Akashi in Hyōgo Prefecture, made of an egg-rich batter and octopus.
Today, Takoyaki is sold almost everywhere in Japan. They are very popular with children, young people and older people alike. And this is not only the Japanese, but many people love Takoyaki! It is not uncommon to see long lines of people, especially during festivals, waiting to be served their Takoyaki. They are sold in restaurants, on the street, super markets, 24 hour convenience stores and probably, even in vending machines.
I know, tako sounds like taco, but take care in using the sound as it may be Japanese slang for stupid? Tako means octopus. If you ask for tako, you might get an angry ‘look,’ some octopus salad Takosu タコス, or Taco rice (タコライス takoraisu. Taco rice is similar to a taco, only it is served on a plate without the shell. Now you might be able to actually find some Japanese tacos, but the shells are made out of rice flour and not corn. Just ask for Takoyaki (octopus balls) and you’ll be fine and happy that you did! 🙂