Every country is identified in one part by its landscape and in one part by the lip smacking delicacies they have to offer. Japan being an island nation with oceans enveloping its borders has an impressive list of fish dishes that are ranged between awesome and phenomenal. One such is the legendary Takoyaki that can be found almost anywhere in the country. Takoyaki traditionally hails from Osaka but is found almost in every corner of a street or a market in Japan. Pickled with scintillating garlic sauce and onion shavings, the cross cultural appeal Takoyaki carries has earned itself the name ‘soul food’ as it packs a distinct flavor nostalgic to so many first time eaters.
The mesmerizing taste of Takoyaki does not need one to hunt on google or a Japanese search engine map. All you need is to find a food market or a street shop and the chances that there is a Takoyaki stand outweighs any chance of it not being there. Its hard to miss the flavour of the sizzling spices and sauces permeating the air. Takoyaki stands are almost a must in festivals and summers in Japan and a vibrant throng of locals and tourists pile in hungrily for seconds.
The word –yaki itself rings a bell. All of the yaki varities found in Japan including Teriyaki, Sukiyaki and Yakitori are fried foods! Following the same line of thought we come to the conclusion that Takoyaki must also be a fried food. If that does not get your gastronomical juices surging, then read on.
Takoyaki are simply deep fried and sauced Octopus Balls. If ‘Octopus balls’ does not sound apetizing, then visualize a batch of tiny, piping hot balls of batter filled with green onions, ginger, crispy tempura bits and octopus all deep fried to a golden brown perfection. It is then slathered with rich, velvety sauces and adds the fine flavour to the equation. The queasiness roused by the name vanishes the very moment the sights and the smells of a Takoyaki stand hits you. It is simply delicious, no doubts about that.
Takomaki Takomasa is a must visit if you are visiting Osaka as legends state that they home the tastiest and the most reasonably priced Takoyaki in all of Japan. One serving (about 6 to 8 pieces) costs about 300-500 Yen which is about 200 -300 INR. Sounds reasonable for a plate of history and a serving of world class cooking.
For those who wish to bring home the flavor of the east, Takoyaki is quite a low maintenance dish although grand in its allure. It takes only few ingredients and a few minutes of work with either an electric cooker or a muffin shaped frying tray. Today, every big supermarket is stacked with a make-it-yourself Takoyaki mix. Many chains of Japanese restaurants found around the globe also dish out variations of the dish. But the original taste of the chewy octopus portions, creamy Mayonnaise, the brown Tako sauce and the Bonito flakes all lie in the heart of those tiny streets.
The Kansai prefecture in the western region of Japan saw a batch of Takoyakis for the first time decades ago. Takoyaki became iconic in Osaka when Tomekichi Endo, a street vendor crafted the dish in 1935. But the question of actual origin of this dish takes us back several centuries.In the 19600s when French cuisine first made an appearance in the east, Osaka and Tokyo came up with an impressive range of battered foods to bring back people’s love to the indegenous delicacies. Little did they know that their attempts would find a global response.
Although a rice based country, the 1923 earthquake had left a huge dent in the food supply chain. In an effort to make do, they improvised on existing flour based dishes and conceived the ingenious ‘Takoyaki’ – a cheap but filling food that would go on to not only substitute for lack of rice, but create an iconic recipe behind. The post World War -II period also saw a shipment of wheat from the United States to Japan as a relief. About this time, the flour and wheat based foods picked up momentum and started gathering fans from around the world.
It even inspired similar creations in the years following its invention. Akashiyaki, a close cousin of the Takoyaki, is a type of dumpling found in Akashi and Hyogo (Japan) which adds a rich egg-batter spin to the same recipe.
In fact it is so popular there is even a Takoyaki Museum in the Universal studios in Japan. It is open through the year and carries an assemblage of many interesting exhibitions. Everything gtom games, to events and even cooking paraphernalia is found here. Five of the best Takoyaki outlets in all of Japan have their shops scattered around the premises of the museum. Take-out menus and souvenir goods are also sold in dozens everyday with people thrilled to be in a museum dedicated to a food dish. If that is not enough, there is even a theme park somewhere inside the museum that is both fun and informative and tells one everything they need to know about Takoyaki. So when you visit Japan, don’t forget to put down Takoyaki Museum in that list of yours right after ‘Eating takoyaki’. It furthers this unique experience that only Japan offers.