Takoyaki: a Tasty Japanese Street Snack
When I first encountered takoyaki, it was at a summer matsuri, or street festival, in Japan. When the smiling man at the takoyaki stall handed me a small container of six octopus balls topped with a savory sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and quivering bonito flakes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After one bite of the piping hot treat, I knew I’d found a new favorite Japanese snack. After I returned home to the U.S., I was thrilled to discover that we can all enjoy takoyaki right here in the Big Apple too.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Otafuku x Medetai in the East Village, where Chef Eri Hotta taught me how to make takoyaki using their custom machine that is specially designed to produce perfect octopus balls for hungry New Yorkers. So how do you make takoyaki, you might ask? First you heat up the grill to 180° Fahrenheit and carefully grease each of the 48 circular apertures so that the batter won’t stick to the sides during cooking. Then you pour the batter (often made with dashi, eggs, salt, and flour—Otafuku x Medetai has its own secret recipe) about a third of the way into each of the holes, after which point you place generous chunks of octopus inside as well. Top each bubbling creation with pickled ginger, slivered green onions, and bits of tempura, then pour another helping of batter on top to seal the takoyaki closed.
Next comes the trickiest part: after letting the takoyaki sizzle for a few minutes, you must begin turning them so they cook evenly and form a perfect spherical shape. You do this by taking two slender bamboo sticks and assertively pushing them downward along the sides of each hole in the grill pan. It takes some time to get the knack of finding the right location and using the appropriate amount of force to turn each ball. Once you’ve rotated all of the takoyaki and cooked them well, all that remains is to take them out of the grill. After that, you simply top each ball with savory sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and bonito flakes, and enjoy.
Takoyaki originated in Osaka, where it is still very popular today. Many Osakans have their own special takoyaki grills at home and even host takoyaki parties for friends and family. This beloved Japanese street snack is now becoming a favorite among foodies in several corners of the globe, including New York. If you haven’t tasted takoyaki yet, give it a try! You’re in for a treat.
—– Reported by Rose de Fremery
Otafuku x Medetai
220 E. 9th St., (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.), New York, NY 10003
TEL: 646-998-3438 | www.otafukuny.com