In 2014 we went to Japan, something I've pretty much always wanted to do.
While there we discovered something important - Osaka is quite possibly the best place for street food. We were introduced to Takoyaki. After two years of searching Paul bought me a takoyaki pan for my birthday. The fun begins.
Where do we shop for such unusual ingredients as bonito flakes though? Introducing my new favourite supermarket, HiYoU, conveniently located in Newcastle city centre. We even bought some kimchi there, meaning the only part of our Osaka visit we couldn't recreate was the Korean BBQ (yet).
What's takoyaki? Probably best described as spherical pancakes with octopus (tako), spring onion, ginger and optionally some kind of peppery sausage in it. It's like a paella and a pancake in one. Amazing Japanese street food.
We used the Takoyaki recipe on Japanese Cooking 101, the video shows you the key skill of rotating the takoyaki in the pan to get a perfect sphere.
Paul prepared the filling while I handled the batter. He mixed tako, fennel sausages, spring onion, coriander and pickled ginger together, chopping the tako and sausage into really small pieces. A small amount of cayenne pepper was involved too. The mix was briefly shown to a pan and mixed about a bit.
The most interesting feature of the batter was the dashi, a sort of very simple fish stock which is the base for a lot of Japanese cooking, I'll be adding this to probably too many things in the future. The rest of the batter was made up from flour, egg, salt and soy sauce. Bonito flakes can be used as the base for the dashi but we went with a ready to go cube - the true place for bonito flakes is sprinkled on top of the complete takoyaki.
The mixed batter goes in your takoyaki pan. A poffertjes pan might also work but is probably not deep enough. Don't panic about it overflowing when you start adding the tako and sausage filling, this will soon resolve.
Let the batter form a solid bottom then using your new found takoyaki twirling skills separate it from the other balls and rotate it onto the other side. Do this for each one and you'll start to get a landscape a bit like the photo below.
Be patient and careful, the pan is bloody hot. Once the takoyaki is browned evenly decant them onto a plate. Sprinkle them with aonori and bonito flakes, both of these will shrink a little in the heat. Then cover them in a generous helping of okonomi sauce and Japanese mayo. Get eating!