Sunday, March 31, 2013

Takoyaki!

I don't know why but I had a sudden crave for some takoyaki, little spheres of yummy goodness. Of course, in order to truly appreciate this little treat, you do have to keep an open mind. Why? Well for one thing the main ingredient is octopus, and if you're really not a seafood fan, then it's only going to get more interesting from here on forward. From octopus to kelp to bonito fish, you name it!

Now if I haven't grossed anyone out yet, then please do continue to read on. Takoyaki is a Japanese spherical snack (because calling them balls just seems slightly inappropriate) filled with small pieces of octopus (tako = octopus hence the name takoyaki). Made with its own special pan (like how waffles have their own "waffle iron") these little buggers have a takoyaki maker/skillet/pan which is much like an Ebelskvier pan...which I own (Danish Pancakes) and thought I could use instead, Wrong. More on that later, but for now lets start from the beginning.

About a month ago, I went to a Japanese restaurant with a couple of friends and ordered takoyaki as an appetizer. I've heard of them but never had one before, so I was curious at what all the hype was about. Turns out, hype was right, they were good! Not like anything I've had before, I've expect the insides to be more dense but it wasn't, instead it was bordering liquidy soft, in a good way of course. Perhaps this was the stem of my crave, so I set forth my search for a recipe. 

The recipes I came across, I felt like I was reading Japanese, what is this?! What is that?! I don't think I've had this much trouble figuring out a recipe ever, mostly because I didn't know what a chuck of the ingredients were! So you have your standard eggs, flour, and water, but then you get into things like "dashi" and "konbu" and "katsuo" and a huge question mark slapped me on the face. What was a simple searched turned into a very educational experience but I wish the recipes I found online would explain what those things were rather than me searching through a bunch of different mediums to find their definitions. So in order to make the next lazy person happy, I'm going to take the liberty of defining all the ingredients that will be used for this recipe so that when you have to search for the items, you'll know what they are and you won't be as confused.

Now once ingredients were defined, there was a matter of where to obtain that list of foreign materials... I am lucky enough to have a Japanese Market, Mitsuwa, available to me so I just went there and figured forget trying to be frugal this time. I don't even know what they normally cost anyways and trying to hunt down all these Japanese ingredients elsewhere might mean I'd have to drive to multiple Asian markets, the cost difference would've been made up with gas and time consumed. That said, if you don't have a Japanese market to go to then I would say you'd still have a bit of luck with most Asian markets. The reason why I suggest going to a Japanese market is because once you're there, you're now in Japan. Trying to find ingredients when everything is in Japanese can definitely make things a challenge. Thank goodness I was still in the US, the nutrition labels were in English so I'd pick up something I'd think is something and flip it over to see what ingredients were present and sometimes they have a rough English translation of the item. On rare occasion like this, I was so grateful I can read basic Chinese because where English failed me, Chinese came to my recuse because Japanese Kanji characters and most traditional Chinese characters share the same meaning. As you can probably deduce, I was in the market for quite some time. Finally though, my shopping task is complete. Ingredients compiled. 

Cooking tools, like I said earlier, I decided to use an Ebelskvier pan which is sufficient but not the pan you want to be using. Takoyaki has its own pan, the round cooking wells are about half the size of the cooking wells on an Ebelskvier which means less batter per ball and batter will hold its shape as the batter is on the thinner side. Cooking it on an Ebelskvier pan required that I use more batter in order for the sphere to be filled completely however, it wasn't able to hold its structural integrity once it was off the hot iron. Flatten takoyakis just doesn't seem as fun to consume, definitely lost some flare. Though just as tasty, not as fun. That being the case, I say if you enjoy these little octo-spheres, invest in a takoyaki pan, they're pretty affordable. While I was at the Japanese market, they were $18 which I was tempted with but decided I would try my way first, which also means I'll probably get a pan next time I'm back there. Amazon has them for about $20-$25. They tend to be cheaper in the Asian stores if you can locate them.


Takoyaki
Makes approx 60 balls (or 30 on an Ebelskvier)
Ingredients:
Batter
  • 300g all-purpose flour (cake flour recommended)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 liter (4 1/4 cups) of cold water
  • 3 grams salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon konbu dashi (soup) stock granules (dry kelp broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon katsuo dashi stock granules (dry fish broth, didn’t specify what kind of fish)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
Fillings
  • cubes of boiled octopus (tako), or your choice of cooked, cubed protein (you could use shrimp, squid, chicken, hot dogs, etc)
  • sliced green onions
Toppings
  • Japanese mayonnaise (apparently there is a difference, I didn’t buy this but I’ve seen it and it looks different from regular American Mayonnaise)
  • Takoyaki sauce (you can buy this in a bottle at most Asian groceries, it usually has a picture of takoyaki on the front)
  • bonito flakes (bonito is a type of fish that shares a Family with tuna and mackerels though often mistaken as skipjack tuna, its not)
  • aonori (powdered seaweed) or seaweed strips

Procedures:

1. Beat the eggs and add the water, and stock granules. Add the egg-water mixture to the flour and salt and mix well. Heat up your pan and oil the individual compartments with an oil brush or use a paper towel dipped in oil.

2. Pour the batter into the individual compartments up to the top. Don’t worry if the batter over flows a bit. Add green onions and your protein (octopus pieces)

3. After a while, the bottom of the takoyakis will be cooked through. At this point, you can use a skewer to turn them over 90 degrees. If you can’t turn the takoyaki easily, it probably needs to cook for a bit longer. Wait a minute or so and then do another 90 degree turn. The balls will become easier to turn the more they cook.

4. The takoyaki are done when they’re lightly brown and crispy on the outside and they turn easily in their holes. Overall I’d say it takes about 10 minutes per batch, from start to finish.

5. To serve, place the takoyaki on a plate and drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce. Generously sprinkle on the bonito flakes and aonori. Enjoy, but be careful, the insides are hot!

No comments:

Post a Comment