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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Japan: Osaka – Takoyaki

Glico Man
Glico Man!

Oh Osaka! Osaka, Osaka, Osaka! Out of all the cities in Japan we went to, Osaka was my favourite and I was VERY VERY disappointed when we had to leave. I could’ve happily stayed for a couple more weeks, there is so much to do and see and, of course, so much to eat!

Osaka is the main city in the Kansai region, and has a population of around 2.5 million people making it Japan’s third largest city (after Tokyo and Yokohama). It has the reputation of being the culinary capital of Japan and was traditionally referred to as the “nation’s kitchen”.

Our hotel (no more ryokans for us, sob!) was located 5 minutes walk from Dotonbori Street. Dotonbori Street is the main destination for food travel in Osaka, and runs alongside the Dotonbori canal between the Dotonboribashi Bridge and the Nipponbashi Bridge. On the street are lots of shops, tons of restaurants and many neon and mechanized signs.

One day in Osaka, we ended up eating four meals. We had breakfast at the hotel (which, in hindsight, we should’ve skipped!), and then takoyaki just before lunch. A couple of hours later, we had a second lunch at a crab restaurant, and at dinner we ate shabu shabu. Oh, and we also had okonomiyaki the evening before, details of which will feature in a future post. This one will be about takoyaki!

Takoyaki are round dumplings made from batter, octopus, spring onions, and other ingredients. To make takoyaki, chopped pieces of octopus are placed into a griddle that has hemispheric indentations. Then, batter made from flour, water and egg, are poured over. As the batter cooks, it is scraped into the holes, and the balls are turned over, until they become round.

You can eat takoyaki at street stalls, but we went to a takoyaki restaurant. We were seated around a table with the cast iron takoyaki griddle set in the centre. When we were seated, the gas was turned on to start heating the griddle.

We were told to oil the indentations really well, so we grabbed some oil sitting on the side of the table and started greasing it up, making sure the oil was not only inside the little cups but also around the sides of the griddle. It needed A LOT of oil.


Then the waiter placed a small piece of octopus inside each of the moulds.


He sprinkled over a lot of spring onions.


And poured in the batter.


We scattered over some tempura flakes.


As well as some pickled ginger over the batter.


The takoyaki cooked for a couple of minutes, and then we were shown to use our skewers to separate the batter on the surface of the pan. Then we pushed the skewer into the metal cups, to separate the cooked batter from the surface and to roughly turn the ball over.


Remaining bits of batter were pushed back into the ball with the skewer.


After another minute or so, we repeated the process of turning the balls. Eventually, they become browner and rounder, until they were ready to eat!


The takoyaki was topped with takoyaki sauce and seaweed flakes and a bit of mayonnaise.


And also some bonito flakes. I do like me some bonito flakes!

The takoyaki was delicious! They were piping hot, lightly crisp, savoury and tangy. Swoon. It was just supposed to be a snack, but we ate so many of them that we could’ve skipped lunch (Err, not that we did. But we could’ve!).

Takoyaki is very popular in Osaka, there were numerous street stalls selling the little dumplings with many people lining up to purchase them. And there’s even a takoyaki museum. I’ll have to see it next time we visit Osaka (and there will definitely be a next time!).

PS: I wish that I had bought a takoyaki pan while in Japan.. I’m thinking that perhaps a poffertjes pan could work as a substitute. Has anyone ever made takoyaki at home? Do you think one would work?

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