Introduction to Japanese Food – Takoyaki


What comes to your mind when I say balls of flour wrapped around chewy octopus? Don’t feel bad if the first word out of your mouth is “Yuck!”

While western pallets may find the idea of takoyaki a little hard to swallow, it’s actually a very popular treat in Japan. In fact, it’s one of Osaka’s greatest specialties.

What is takoyaki anyway?

Takoyaki chef

The word tako means octopus and the word yaki means cooked by grilling or roasting. So the name kind of says it all. Takoyaki is grilled octopus coated and served in a ball shape.

How do they make it?

Think of takoyaki as a Japanese dumpling.

Diced or whole pieces of octopus are first mixed with pickled ginger and green onion. Then with a mix of flour, dashi soup (stock), and egg that is made into a batter, the octopus is dipped into it and placed into a takoyaki pan. This pan is sort of like a muffin tray with several rounded forms to fit the takoyaki balls.

Then it’s onto the grill for cooking. While they cook the balls a flipped so that they brown nicely on all sides.

When finished you can coat them in special takoyaki sauce or mayonnaise if you wish.

Sounds kinda good when I explain it, eh?

Why an Osaka specialty?

Takoyaki being made

It seems like everyplace in Japan is famous for at least one thing. And while Osaka is also known for its okonomiyaki, its probably even better know for its octopus balls.

The dish was originally made popular by an Osaka street vendor named Endo Tomekichi around 1935. While a similar dish called choboyaki (basically grilled flour based batter) was around for 20 years or so; it it may also be possible that this cooking style was introduced by Dutch traders. Regardless, it was Endo who decided to put octopus in the middle. And thus takoyaki was born!

Takoyaki cooking in action

If you’re interested in seeing how takoyaki is made, here’s a few videos. I actually haven’t tasted takoyaki yet, so if you have, I’d love to here how it was in your comments!

Check out this cook’s mad flipping skills!

The proper way to eat takoyaki is to nod like a madman while chewing. Thumbs up is optional.

And of course, no food post would be complete without Francis!

Photo credits – Splash picture of takoyaki by: mhuang, Takoyaki cook by: alexthompson, Making Takoyaki by: d’n’c.

4 Responses to “Introduction to Japanese Food – Takoyaki”

  1. evul  on November 3rd, 2010

    i was recently in Osaka and had takoyaki several times. don’t miss it, this stuff is awesome!

    i also had okonomiyaki while in Tokyo, very tasty. my only critic is that there is always a little too much mayo and bbq sauce on these types of fried foods which ends up making it all kind of taste the same.

    my favorite thing by far to eat while in Japan however, was ramen. i would eat that everyday. there was only time at a food court in a mall in Osaka where the ramen was substandard. anywhere else it was great.

  2. Travis  on November 6th, 2010

    I’m looking forward to trying it out. We had okonomiyaki last time, but we never had a chance to try takoyaki.

    It looks like there a few shops around where we are staying in Osaka, so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to try it out.

  3. m  on October 28th, 2011

    Takoyaki is one of my favorite dishes here in japan. i crave it often. i enjoy it with Mayo on top.

  4. Danny  on September 15th, 2015

    Hi Sir,

    Can you cook Baby Octopus to Chuka Idako?
    If you can, can you teach me?

    Thank you Sir

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