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How to Cook Takoyaki at Home

Are you tired of going out to eat all the time? Do you want to gain cooking skills in Japanese cuisine or you just want to save more money? Maybe you want to bond with some people that you became friends with in Japan? Cooking at home will solve your problems and help you bond with your new friends. There are many Japanese dishes that you can easily cook at home. Some of them can be expensive while others can be relatively cheap. One dish that you ought to try is Takoyaki. Here is how to cook this Osaka specialty.
Cover photo credit:Ballet Lausanne

1. What is Takoyaki

First, let’s break down the name, “Takoyaki.” You may have heard the word “yaki” used in other Japanese dishes such as Yakitori, Sukiyaki, Yakiniku, Tamagoyaki, and others. “Yaki” simply means “broiled” or “Grilled.” It basically refers to anything cooked on a stove top, range, or in a pan. “Tako” is the maker or deal breaker for many foreigners, but it isn’t as bad as one may initially think. “Tako” is the Japanese word for octopus, but Takoyaki isn’t grilled octopus, rather, it is more like a dumpling with vegetables and diced octopus as a filling. It’s delicious.

2. What You Will Need

To make Takoyaki,  you will need a takoyaki grill called たこ焼き器 (Takoyaki ki). You will need flour, dashi, eggs, cooked or broiled octopus, tenkasu (fried batter pieces left over from tempura), spring/green onions, dried bonito flakes, neutral flavored cooking oil, baking powder, kosher salt, soy sauce, 1 pack of aonori and beni shoga (pickled red ginger). These are the basic ingredients for Takoyaki, but like with other foods in Japan, the ingredients greatly depends on who is cooking the dish. You will also need something to turn the takoyaki while it is cooking, plastic takoyaki picks or bamboo skewers work well for this.

3. Gather the Ingredients

Like with all cooking, it helps if you prepare the ingredients in advance. It allows you to make sure that you have all the ingredients needed. Gather and measure:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cup dashi
2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp pickled red ginger
⅓ cup tenkasu
2 green/spring onions
4.2 oz cooked octopus
¼ cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
2 Tbsp neutral flavor oil
1 pack of Aonori

4. Preparation

To prepare the ingredients, cut up and mince the onions and red ginger into fine slices. Cut the octopus into bite-sized, easy-to-chew chunks. Some people also like to grind the bonito flakes into a fine powder, but it isn’t necessary as you will add bonito to the final product. Whisk together all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl, then add two large eggs, dashi and soy sauce. Whisk together until all of these ingredients are well blended to get a nice batter for the takoyaki. At this point, all ingredients that need to be prepped should be prepped.

5. Cooking the Takoyaki

Set up the grill in an area where the takoyaki will be eaten. To start the cooking process, heat the takoyaki grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and leave it on the medium setting. Use an oil brush to spread a generous amount of oil in each hole and across the top of the grill. This will allow the takoyaki to cook with a crispy outside and keep the takoyaki from sticking to the pan. Adding just the right amount of oil will help you make beautiful golden brown takoyaki balls.Watch for smoke rising from the pan. Once you see it, you can begin pouring the batter.

6. Adding ingredients

Fill each hole with batter–enough for it to flow over the edges. Put each ingredient into the holes, starting with the tako. Sprinkle bonito flake powder over each hole, then add green onions, tenkasu, and red ginger. After a few minutes, the bottom of the batter should be solid. At this time, use the takoyaki picks to break the edges of the batter that connects each takoyaki hole. It makes it easier and it’s more fun if friends or family help with this. The next step is a bit tricky for some. Pull the edges inward before turning the takoyaki over at a 90-degree angle and add a little more batter. Keep turning and stuffing edges until all the batter is cooked.

7. Final Steps

Continue flipping the takoyaki until it is a nice golden brown color. It helps to swap spaces between takoyaki as some may cook slower than others. After about 4 or 5 minutes, the takoyaki should be fully cooked. Pick them out with the picks and place them on a plate. Top them with Kewpie mayo and takoyaki sauce in continuous and broad zig-zags. Then add aonori (shredded powder-like green seaweed) and uncrushed bonito flakes as desired. Careful! The takoyaki is still very hot. Take a picture for Instagram, break open one of the takoyaki and dig in.

8. Tips for Great Takoyaki

Of course, people who are skilled in the art of Takoyaki have secret techniques that they use to get the best results with their takoyaki. Here are some tips. Fill each hole with batter. The entire top of the grill should be covered in the batter after the ingredients have been added. Sometimes it helps to push the takoyaki to turn it over, sometimes it helps to stick and flick it. You will get an idea of which to use once you try it. It also helps to slowly turn the takoyaki making sure it isn’t sticking to the pan. If it’s easy to turn go ahead and turn it. Avoid metal picks as they can scratch off the stick-resistant layer of the takoyaki pan which will cause future takoyaki to stick to the pan.

9. Extra Ingredients to Try

If the idea of eating octopus creeps you out or you can’t get past seeing the tentacles of the octopus, there are alternatives to tako that are just as delicious. You can use other meats like sausage, canned tuna, shrimp, squid, and fish cakes. You can use vegetables like corn, kimchi, avocado, and cabbage. Cabbage is regularly added to takoyaki (along with tako) in many places outside of Osaka.  Some people enjoy Cheese with their takoyaki. Another great addition is adding mochi and cheese which is a delicious combination.

Takoyaki is quite easy to make and it is a lot of fun for everyone in the family or everyone in your group of friends. It is enjoyed all throughout the year especially by college students who enjoy having takoyaki parties in their dormitories, lounge halls, or apartments. It’s great for everyone because you can easily customize each ball of takoyaki to individual taste, so everyone can be happy. Just remember what takoyaki has what in it and enjoy.