What Is Takoyaki?
Takoyaki is a round, fried Japanese street food filled with pieces of grilled octopus. Takoyaki balls are made from a batter of wheat flour and dashi stock, similar to okonomiyaki, and cooked in a custom cast-iron pan that gives them their signature shape. Each ball contains a piece or two of cooked octopus, crunchy tempura scraps (tenkasu), green onions, and beni shoga (pickled red ginger).
Traditional takoyaki are served either on a skewer or piled into a takeaway container, with various toppings and garnishes, including aonori (dried, powdered seaweed), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), Japanese mayonnaise, and a salty-sweet takoyaki sauce.
4 Tips for Making Takoyaki
Making a good batch of takoyaki takes practice, and before long, you will develop a technique that works for you. In the meantime:
- Use the right pan. Using a takoyaki pan can help you achieve perfectly round octopus balls. (If you can’t find a cast-iron takoyaki pan, a cake pop maker or pan intended for Danish aebleskiver will also give you that perfect ball shape.) Electric takoyaki makers, like waffle irons, are also popular.
- Use enough oil. Incorporating enough fat is crucial to a golden, crispy crust. Coat all of the pan’s wells with oil: There should be a small pool of oil at the bottom of each well. That way, when the batter hits the hot pan, it will push the oil up the sides of the well for an even fry.
- Use pre-cooked octopus. You can prepare and boil fresh octopus for a batch of takoyaki, or you can save some time and purchase pre-cooked octopus, which you can find in most Asian grocery stores.
- Use the right sauce. Like okonomiyaki sauce, you can find pre-made takoyaki sauce in most Asian grocery stores or online (often by the same brand). If you’re having trouble finding it, salty-sweet tonkatsu sauce is a close substitute—as is a homemade mixture of Worcestershire sauce with a bit of ketchup. The goal is a sauce with rich umami flavor to highlight the octopus and dashi in the dumplings and bright enough to complement all that fried dough.