Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)

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When you ask a foreigner who is interested in Japan, “What would you like to eat in Japan?” “I want Takoyaki!” is often their response.

Nowadays, you can find franchised Takoyaki shops all over Japan and there are more and more Takoyaki stands opening overseas as well. This ever-popular yet oh-so-simple food originated in Osaka, in the region of Kansai.

Osaka people love food made with flour, which they call “Konamon”. They love Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), udon, bread, pasta and so on, and more than any of these, they love Takoyaki the best! People say that everyone in and/or from Osaka has their own Takoyaki hot plate. Well, that may be a bit of exaggeration, but it is true that it is getting really big in Japan, particularly among young generations.  Every family wants to add a Takoyaki hot plate to their culinary tools because Takoyaki is very handy for a party at home; it is fun to make in a group setting. It is no surprise that Takoyaki is one of the most popular party menus in Japan.

The creator of Takoyaki is said to be Ryukichi Endo, the first founder of Aizuya in Nishinari, Osaka.  In 1933, Ryukichi got a hint to mix two dishes that already existed at that time. One was Choboyaki, whose ingredients were flour batter, chopped green onion, and Konnyaku (made from Konnyuku root). It was a snack between meals. The other one was Akashiyaki from Akashi, Hyogo, next to Osaka, which was like an omelet with octopus. Takoyaki was indeed a hybrid of those two and its name came from its octopus ingredient, called tako in Japanese. The snack instantly became popular because of how easy it was to make, and by 1955, about 500 Takoyaki had sprouted up in Osaka.

Here is how to make Takoyaki; mix flour and broth to make batter, and pour the batter for the Takoyaki hot plate on stove. While baking, you add chopped octopus, green onion, pickled ginger, and deep fried tempura batter (which enhances the flavor). As you bake, you work to make them round with a sharp metal pick. When they are finished, you add onto them a special sauce that is similar to Worcester sauce in England, and sprinkle some dried fish and seaweed flakes. If you like, you can also add a bit of mayonnaise on top. The outside of a Takoyaki is crisp and the inside is hot and soft. What a combination! Be careful not to burn your tongue!  Stores also sell a Takoyaki seasoned flour mix, along with Takoyaki flavored rice crackers that are great for souvenirs.  Once you’ve experienced delicious Takoyaki in Osaka, you will understand why Takoyaki is one of the most wanted foods in Japan among foreign visitors!

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