I’ve never been to Japan, but when I finally make it there, I definitely want to check out Osaka. Osaka is known for its food, and one of the classic street foods hailing from Osaka is takoyaki. I first read about this tasty snack on one of my favorite bento blogs, Lunch in a Box, and I instantly set out on a quest to figure out how to make them myself!
Takoyaki are little round dumplings with a yummy morsel of octopus (tako) inside. You need a special pan (that features half-circle molds to shape the takoyaki) to make them. It’s similar to an aebelskiver pan if you’re familiar with those, but the circles are quite a bit smaller. I’ve seen videos of street venders in Osaka with giant table-top sized takoyaki pans, but of course, this won’t work for making them at home. You have a couple of options though, even in the States. The first kind is an actual pan, usually made of cast-iron or some other kind of non-stick material. My first takoyaki pan was the cast-iron variety, and I got it from Amazon at a really reasonable price. You could also check out Japanese stores; I’ve since seen a few takoyaki pans at the Mitsuwa near me.
These pans sit right on your stove top are are heated like you’d heat any other pan. The only issue I had with this pan is that it would never sit straight on my stove-top grates, so I’d usually have to have someone help me by standing there and hold the handle straight while I made the dumplings (which takes both hands). Still, it’s a very affordable and easy-to-use option, and probably the easiest to acquire outside of Japan.
Option number two is an electric takoyaki maker. These are electric plates with a takoyaki pan-tray on top. You just turn it on and let it heat up; no stove required. Yes, you can find these on sites like Amazon and Ebay, but they’re usually pretty pricey. Then, I saw one at J-List for basically the same price as the cast-iron one I bought, and I ordered one right away. At the time of me writing this, they still have them available to buy. It did take quite a long time to ship, but still, it was worth it! A concern with the electric makers is the voltage; Japanese appliances use 100V and U.S. appliances use 120V. J-List specifically mentions that this takoyaki maker can be used in the States, and I used mine without a converter and had no problems, but it is something to be aware of.
So you have your takoyaki pan/maker, now what? Well, it’s time for you to get some ingredients! If you have a pantry that’s well-stocked with Japanese basics, you may not have to buy a whole lot, but chances are, at least if you’re not in Japan, you’ll need to do some shopping. Again, I have a Mitsuwa market near me and I was able to get everything I needed there. If not, there is some substituting you can do, or you can order ingredients online.
First off, you need dough. If you have a place to buy Japanese ingredients, try looking for prepackaged takoyaki dough mix. If you can’t find this, Lunch in a Box’s tutorial has a recipe for dough you can make.
Next, you need octopus! Really, you can fill these dumplings with anything you want, but if you want to make true takoyaki, the tako is pretty necessary, you know, since it’s in the name. Tentacles are best in my opinion, and I like to use frozen boiled octopus that I have seen at many Asian markets. Once, I even used Goya brand chopped octopus that comes in a can! It’s not as good as the fresh or frozen stuff, but since you are frying these (it’s not like you’re making sushi rolls or anything) don’t worry too much about quality.
There are other ingredients that go inside the dumplings along with the octopus. One is beni shoga, or shredded red pickled ginger. Next is tenkasu, or little crispy bits of fried tempura batter. I’ve heard you can buy a bag of this at some Japanese stores, but I’ve never found it. I just make my own by mixing up a little tempura batter, heating up some oil, and using a fork to fry little drops of dough. Once they’re crisp, I remove them with a metal slotted spoon, let them sit on a paper towel for a minute or too, and then break them up if they’re sticking together. And voila! You’ve got tenkasu! I’ve heard you can also substitute crispy rice cereal. Other than that, you just need some chopped green onions.
When the takoyaki are all done, there are some classic toppings. Aonori, which is seaweed powder, and katsuobushi, or bonito flakes, are sprinkled on top. Then there’s mayo (although I’m not a mayo fan, so I didn’t use it). If you want to keep it Japanese, try Kewpie mayo (the one with the creepy baby logo on it). Lastly, you need you some takoyaki sauce! You can buy the specific sauce actually make for takoyaki, but any similar sauce (okonomiyaki sauce, tonkatsu sauce, yakisoba sauce) will do.
Now comes the fun part: making the takoyaki! Here it is in recipe form with lots of photos to help you out; many thanks to my roommate for taking action photos of my whispy ghost hands making the takoyaki!
Takoyaki sauce (or similar sauces, see above), for drizzling
Mayonnaise (optional), for drizzling
Takoyaki making equipment: takoyaki pan or maker (see above), 1 or 2 wooden skewers (chopsticks will work) for turning the dumplings, and a brush for oiling the pan
1. Mix takoyaki mix with the water until well-blended, then whisk in the egg. For a smooth takoyaki-making experience, I think it’s best to pour the mixed batter into a measuring cup so it’s easy to pour, or you could use a ladle.
2. Mix the tenkasu, green onion, and beni shoga together in a bowl. Make sure you have this close at hand, along with the chopped octopus, before you start making the takoyaki.
3. Heat your takoyaki pan/maker until warm, then brush the surface with oil, making sure to get into all the little half-circles.
4. Carefully pour the prepared batter into each of the half-circles. Fill them up about half way. Again, it’s best to use a measuring cup or a ladle so you can pour more exactly.
5. Add a piece of octopus (or two, if you have extra) to each half-circle. Then add a pinch or small spoonful of the tenkasu/green onion/beni shoga mixture to each half-circle.
6. Pour more batter over each circle and over the entire surface of the pan. Make sure the entire surface inside of the rim of the pan is covered in batter, but also make sure you don’t pour so much that it starts overflowing down the sides!
7. Allow the takoyaki to cook for a couple of minutes, so the bottom part can get crispy. If you turn them too soon they will get mushy (you can see that happened to a few of mine.. this was my first time using the electric maker and I was a little bit worried about overheating due to the whole voltage thing).
Now comes the fun, yet tricky part. Using a wooden skewer or chopstick, trace around the edge of one of the half-circles. If it’s firm enough, poke the stick down along the edge of the half-circle to the bottom, then swing it around the edge so the bottom of the dumpling flips up. I like to use a second skewer to help guide the dumpling. Scoop it around until it forms the top of the “ball.” Use the skewers to poke the extra dough around the half-circle into the middle of the dumpling, and then allow the bottom side to cook. Continue with all the half-circles on the pan until you have nice, spherical dumplings, and no extra dough between them.
8. Let cook for a few more minutes until crisp all around. The goal is to get a nice crispy surface, but keep the inside kind of soft. Poke at the takoyaki and see if they’ll move around freely in the pan, and if they do, you’re done!
9. When they’re done to your liking, remove from the pan, and then you can add all of the toppings! Sprinkle some aonori and bonito flakes over the top, and drizzle with sauce and mayo. Serve piping hot, and enjoy!
While this is technically a snack food, I ate this as a main course for dinner, along with a baby spinach salad with a miso-ponzu dressing. It was a fantastic combo!
If you want a really helpful (and really cute) video to get a better idea of how to make these dumplings, check out “How to Make Takoyaki” from Cooking With Dog. It’s a great YouTube channel featuring a “talking” dog that narrates as a lady makes Japanese food. They have lots of wonderful tutorials, and watching this video before I first made takoyaki really gave me the confidence I needed.
Takoyaki has become one of my very favorite snacks, and once you’ve done it a few times and have the ingredients on hand, you can make them any time!
Have you had takoyaki before, in Japan, in a restaurant, or somewhere else? Have you ever tried making them at home? Leave a comment and let me know! ^_^
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