One of my favorite things to do when we lived in NYC was to head over to St. Marks to enjoy homey Japanese food. I’m not talking about fancy sushi, but food your mama made (if she were Japanese) and street food you would find in Japan.
There was a tiny little hole in the wall kitchen (small spaces somehow make legit street food, am I right??) that made Takoyaki and Yakisoba – which are Japanese snack foods. There’s no room to sit so you just stand outside or score a seat on the tiny bench on the sidewalk to slurp down the Takoyaki without burning your mouth while listening to Japanese hip hop streaming out of the kitchen. Just writing about this takes me back and is making my mouth water!
This is one of those things that is BEST eaten fresh off the griddle. I crave this delicious snack often and since we’ve moved to the Bay Area we haven’t found a place close enough that makes these to satisfy my Takoyaki tooth.
So for Christmas I asked Santa for a Takoyaki griddle. And since I’ve been very good this year, I found it under the tree and my family enjoyed the magical gift that are Japanese octopus balls. My 3 year old and 11 month old devoured them. They are “snacks” after all and Takoyaki is at the upper-escehlon of specialty Asian snacks, which are really THE BEST, in my opinion.
I’ve been trying not to get special kitchen equipment that have one function, so I researched some other recipes that can be made from this griddle and I’ll be looking into that real soon.
I followed this recipe from Japanesecooking101.com which I reference a lot for Japanese recipes.
A few notes and words of advice:
- For Bay area residents: I was able to get all the ingredients (or good substitutes) from Berkeley Bowl which was awesome to do my regular shopping and not have to go to an Asian market. I found out that Berkeley Bowl are owned by Asian-Americans which explains their great selection of Asian ingredients.
- Mastering the technique of using this pan takes practice and mostly lots of youtube video watching. So I highly recommend finding videos to review the cooking in action before jumping in. There are lots of good ones out there!
- I wasn’t able to find Octopus but substituted with Calamari which worked out well. It didn’t have the chewiness of Octopus which is the texture that works so delightfully with the soft creamy batter, but I was OK with it. Calamari is also the more sustainable choice.
- Don’t be ashamed to use Dashi tea bags – a huge time saver and worthwhile shortcut for me
- There’s no substitute for Kewpie (Japanese) mayo!
- If you’re planning to go to NYC check out Otafuku, 220 East 9th Street. I never knew this was the name of the stall so the sign might not be obvious, but you can’t miss the little stall that indicates its a Japanese kitchen, so just trust your instincts and follow the Japanese hip-hop beat…
Recipe after the jump.
Recipe adapted from Japanesecooking101.com
- 2 cups (480ml) Dashi (I didn’t have time to make my own so used Dashi tea bags that you steep in boiling water)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp Benishoga (pickled red ginger), chopped
- 5-6 oz octopus, cut into 1/2″ cubes (I used Calamari)
- Takoyaki sauce or Okonomiyaki sauce
- Aonori (green dried seaweed)
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
- In a large bowl, mix well Dashi, eggs, soy sauce, salt, and flour with a whisk.
- Heat a Takoyaki pan with oil to very hot, just until the oil begins to smoke. Use enough oil to coat the pan using a paper towel so that the batter won’t stick. Then pour batter to fill the holes of the pan.
- Drop octopus pieces in the batter in each hole, and sprinkle chopped green onions and ginger all over the pan.
- Cook at medium heat for 1-2 minutes and turn over using a Takoyaki turner (you can use a chopstick too). It can be a little tricky at first, so watch the video to see the technique. Cook another 3-4 minutes, turning constantly.
- Place the cooked Takoyaki on a plate and pour Takoyaki sauce and mayo over them (to taste). Finish the dish by sprinkling the Takoyaki with Aonori (green dried seaweed) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).