For a 3rd and last helping from Otsumami by Atsuko Ikeda (published by Ryland Peters & Small, 2022), here is Takoyaki, an Osaka street food staple.
FRIED ROUND DUMPLINGS STUFFED WITH OCTOPUS
Along with okonomiyaki, takoyaki are probably one of the most famous Osakan street foods, but you can also ﬁnd them everywhere across Japan. They are little round balls of batter, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and stuff ed with little nuggets of octopus. You’ll need to buy a special pan (widely available online) to make takoyaki, but they’re deﬁnitely worth it as they are such a perfect party food.
450 ml/scant 2 cups Dashi* of your choice
1 UK large/US extra-large egg
2 tsp light soy sauce
150 g/1 cup plus 2 tbsp plain/all-purpose ﬂour, sifted
3½ tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
200 g/7 oz. octopus tentacles
20 g/¾ oz. pickled ginger, ﬁnely chopped
2 spring onions/scallions, ﬁnely chopped
120 g/4¼ oz. takoyaki sauce
60 g/2 oz. Japanese mayonnaise
10 g/⅓ oz. bonito ﬂakes (katsuobushi)
2 tsp aonori seaweed ﬂakes
iron takoyaki pan with 16 holes (each hole 4 cm/1½ inches wide)
Whisk the dashi, egg and light soy sauce together in a large jug/pitcher. Sprinkle over the ﬂour in two additions and gently whisk into the dashi mixture until incorporated into a smooth batter. Do not overmix.
Before you start cooking, make a simple but useful tool: scrunch some good-quality, thick kitchen paper tightly into a ball. Place the ball in the middle of another sheet of kitchen paper then wrap it around and twist the loose ends together to make a lollipop/candy on a stick shape.
Heat the takoyaki pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, dip the paper ball of the lollipop into the vegetable oil, then use it to oil each hole. Dip the paper in the oil again, then use it to coat the ﬂat surface of the pan. You’ll need to cover the whole surface of the pan in oil to avoid the batter sticking. There should be some oil pooling at the bottom of the holes.
Pour a quarter of the batter into each hole in the pan. Put half of the octopus pieces in each hole, then scatter half the pickled ginger and spring onions/scallions over the entire pan. Finally, pour over another quarter of the batter so it spreads across the ﬂat surface of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook without touching for 5 minutes.
Use bamboo skewers or chopsticks to push one side of the batter away from the rim of a hole. It will move easily if it’s set underneath, if not then wait a little longer before trying again. Once the bottom is crispy, use chopsticks to rotate the balls 90 degrees so that any uncooked batter is underneath. Stuff any of the surrounding dough on the ﬂat part of the pan inside the balls as you turn them. When the bottom becomes crispy again (after a minute or so), repeat the 90-degree rotation and stuffing process three more times in the same direction. At this point, turn the takoyaki around every which way, until the surface is golden all over and they are perfectly round! Using bamboo skewers, remove the takoyaki from the pan to serving plates or bamboo boats. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining ingredients to make a second batch.
Drizzle over the takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, then sprinkle with bonito ﬂakes and aonori before serving.
(* Excerpted from Otsumami: Japanese Small Bites & Appetizers: Over 70 Recipes to Enjoy with Drinks by Atsuko Ikeda, published by Ryland Peters & Small 2022 / Photography by Yuki Sugiura (c) Ryland Peters & Small 2022)