Takoyaki are an incredibly popular street food snack in Japan. They are little dumplings filled with pieces of cooked octopus – the “tako” – and then fried “yaki”. It is possible to buy frozen dumplings ready to microwave, but they are not a patch on the homemade version.
Using the pan is rather wonderful. You start with a little hemisphere of batter, and then turn it step by step until a whole sphere is formed. Whenever you get the pan out to make the takoyaki, the first batch is always a struggle as the batter sticks a little. Don’t give up! Keep persevering – and somehow what looks like a sticky mess, will transform into the magical little spheres. After that, the second and third batches will be a breeze.
It’s also worth making sweet ‘takoyaki’. Just replace the soy, and dashi granules in the batter with a little sugar and vanilla extract, and fill with fruits or chocolate.
Recipe: Japanese takoyaki balls
A handful of something that is cooked – ready to eat – and has some texture: a little cooked octopus tentacle, squid, smoked sausage, cubes of hard cheese, sweetcorn…
Finely sliced spring onions, pickled ginger (optional)
1. Cut the octopus or other filling into 1cm pieces. Set aside.
2. Crack the eggs into a large bowl, and break up gently with a whisk. Add the ice cold water (or vegetable stock, or even octopus cooking water), dashi granules, soy sauce, and salt. Whisk again.
3. Weigh out the flour into a separate bowl, and sieve 1/3 into the liquid mixture. Again stir gently using a whisk, so any large pockets of flour are broken up. Repeat with the remaining 2/3. It is better to have a slightly lumpy batter than to overwhisk.
4. Place the takoyaki pan on the stove, over a medium to high heat. Pour a little cooking oil into a couple of the pan’s dimples. Use a bunched up piece of kitchen roll to dab this into all the other dimples.
5. When you think the pan is hot, pour a little batter into one of the dimples. If it sizzles the pan is ready to use. Ladle batter into each of the dimples, leaving a couple of space at the top of each hole. Drop a little piece of octopus into each batter-filled dimple. Top up with a little more batter.
6. As the batter starts to brown, use chopsticks to loosen the edges of the batter in each hole. Try to loosen the batter until you can rotate the ball by 90 degrees, to form more of the shere. Pour in a little more batter into each hole if it doesn’t fill automatically from the centre of the ball. Wait another minute or two and turn again so the rounded side is now facing upwards. Again batter should drop from the middle of the ball to touch the pan, completing the sphere.
7. Remove the balls to a plate, and repeat. This amount of batter is enough for 2-3 batches from a this takoyaki pan.
7. To serve, squeeze over the Japanese mayonnaise, bulldog sauce, and sprinkle over aonori seaweed flakes, and a pinch of bonito flakes.