Takoyaki Recipe to Make with Friends and Family
Takoyaki is THE PERFECT SNACK. I don’t know how many times Mike and I have stumbled home from a night out in Tokyo only to see the warm welcoming yellow lights and bright red awning of Gindado, Japan’s premier street side takoyaki stand. They’re the only ones open at 3 in the morning (okay, there are other places open, but for the purpose of this story, just pretend) and they are the ultimate drunk food. Crispy pan fried balls of savory seasoned batter filled with tender chunks of octopus, crispy tempura bits, and topped off with takoyaki sauce and seaweed. This is street food at its best: a la minute, fast, friendly, so bad for you, but oh-so-good.
And the best thing about takoyaki is that they aren’t just drunk food! Takoyaki feature prominently in Japanese street festivals and as home cooking. You can’t go to any street fair in Japan without seeing a takoyaki vendor. I love having takoyaki in the streets, but I almost kind of sort of like making it at home even more? It seems like Japanese people agree with me because if you ever take a look on the appliances floor of any major electronics store in Japan, you’ll see at-home takoyaki machines. They’re little portable machines that plug in, heat up, and have the perfect little half spherical depressions for making takoyaki. I did an informal poll of my friends living in Japan and almost all of them have one for the express purpose of making takoyaki at home.
There’s something so fun and cozy about having a takoyaki party with family or friends. You pop a takoyaki machine in the middle of the table, get all the ingredients ready, then make takoyaki and eat and chat the day and night away. You can keep it interesting by having all different kinds of fillings and toppings so everyone can customize. You can even have a takoyaki-off where everyone creates their own and have a taste test to choose the winner.
If you’ve never made them before, it takes a little finesse, but that’s part of the fun. Sometimes Mike and I will have a takoyaki date, just the two of us and it’s kind of the. best because unlike the street vendors, you can put in whatever you like. I love tako (octopus) but we’ve also done chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, and even hot dogs. One variation we both love is taco takoyaki: seasoned ground beef, cheese, tomatoes – you know, all the good stuff from hard shell tacos, but inside a little takoyaki ball. I especially love cheese in takoyaki. It’s melty in the middle and gets crispy on the outside edges. Takoyaki heaven!
- Make the batter before hand. It can hangout in the fridge overnight even and all you need to do is give it a good stir every time you fill the takoyaki holes.
- Don’t skimp out on the oil. You need it to help crisp up the outside layer and make it easier to flip the balls.
- Use a lot of batter and top it up. When you watch professional takoyaki vendors, you’ll notice that they almost over fill the little holes, let the batter cook, then break everything up with skewers and stuff the excess back into the takoyaki ball. This makes the balls nice and round. You can also fill the holes halfway, put the fillings in, then, after the first turn, add a bit more batter to fill the ball out.
- Move the balls around. After all the balls are form and lightly grilled, feel free to move them around the pan. Home takoyaki pans tend to be uneven, so switching up the positions of the balls helps with even browning and crisping.