Takoyaki is unquestionably the city of Osaka’s gift to the world and it certainly has a place close to my heart – or should that be stomach?! Munching my way through Osaka I must have eaten dozens of these bite-sized tako balls!
Takoyaki (たこ焼き) is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion. Tako balls are brushed with sauce and mayonnaise. The takoyaki is then sprinkled with shavings of dried bonito. However, there can be many variations, and wherever you travel across Japan you can be sure of tasting different kinds of tako.
Takoyaki was first popularized in Osaka, where a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo is credited with its invention in 1935. Takoyaki was inspired by a small round dumpling from the city of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture made of an egg-rich batter and octopus. Takoyaki was initially popular in the Kansai region, and later spread to the Kanto region and other areas of Japan. Takoyaki is associated with yatai street food stalls, and there are many well-established takoyaki specialty restaurants, particularly in Osaka. Takoyaki is now sold at commercial outlets, such as supermarkets and 24-hour convenience stores. Each tako ball contains around 79 calories, and the rough cost is around 500 Yen for 6 balls, although there is a lot of difference in pricing depending on location.
I don’t know how much takoyaki is eaten by the Japanese each year (cannot find any stats), but it must be quite a lot! We know they love their sushi and ramen, but takoyaki must be up there with the most popular eats in the country! There is even a museum dedicated to takoyaki in Osaka! I think Japanese people eat takoyaki as a snack food mainly, rather than as part of a main meal, as the tako balls lend themselves kindly to being eaten on the move.
In eating this octopus ball, I probably discovered one of my top 5 street foods in Asia when I was in Osaka, and even when I am now travelling in other countries I always look for a Japanese fast food restaurant and search out some delectable tako (and even when I’m back in London, too)! One of the most famous takoyaki franchises is Tsukiji Gindaco, which I believe originated in Tokyo. They also have a presence in Singapore and I think it’s my favourite tako brand.
And if you want to make takoyaki for yourself, then check out this detailed pictorial guide from Just One Cookbook!