Summer time reminds of of Japanese festivals, matsuri's and Obon celebrations. One of my favorite foods to eat during the summer at these events are takoyaki, or grilled octopus balls. Takoyaki balls are made with flour, egg, and a Japanese-style soup base filled with a small piece of tako (octopus) in the middle. Toppings on each ball include okonomi sauce, mayonnaise, aonori flakes, and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). The outside of the ball should be crispy and the inside should be soft and delicate. Takoyaki is best to eat while hot.
Takoyaki was popularized in Osaka and is generally associated with street food stands around Japan. My sister Kathy and her husband Kyle did the J.E.T. (Japanese Exchange Teaching Program) in Osaka in their early 20's and fell in love Japan's food, culture, and of course the takoyaki.
She even bought a cast-iron takoyaki pan in Japan and brought it back to Hawaii to share with our family.
A couple weeks ago, I had an idea that we would try and make takoyaki at home. I even called our family friend Karl from KarlsBalls to give us any tips or advice. He was nice enough to share a basic takoyaki recipe with us. Click on the takoyaki YouTube video down below to view the recipe that we used!
Unfortunately we didn't have any knowledge on how to season a cast-iron pan at the time and since it wasn't used for many many years, our homemade takoyaki ended up as "burnt balls."
LESSON: If you have a cast-iron pan, make sure you know how to take care of it. We learned that it is important to oil and season this pan between uses.
Giving up on this recipe and this idea was not an option so we decided to try again. However this time I decided to purchase a pan that Karl recommended. We ended up buying this awesome device: Iwatani Cassette Gas Takoyaki Device and it definitely worked wonders! Here's what the overall set up looked like!
And this is how our "balls" came out!
I loved the taste and the texture of our Takoyaki! Karl's recipe was so simple and delicious! We also added pieces of mochi and kimchee to each Takoyaki ball. One thing that I don't think we truly accomplished was the texture that Karl get's when he makes his takoyaki. Ours didn't turn out very "mushy" or "runny" on the inside... but I think to get that texture, it takes more practice.
If you want to check out our homemade Takoyaki experience and find out the recipe that we used, click on this YouTube video! And if you you are in the New York area, check out Karl's takoyaki stand! Visit Karlsballs.com for more information!
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After we made our own takoyaki at home, it made me curious to try Takoyaki Yama-Chan located in Honolulu, Hawaii.
This particular stand that we visited is right outside of Don Quijote (Hawaii Japanese market) located on Kaheka street. There is outside seating available for customers that want the "dine-in" take-out experience.
Takoyaki Yama-Chan specializes in takoyaki, yakisoba, and okonomiyaki. I was so tempted to get all three, but Reid and I decided to get a takoyaki combo (5 regular and 5 kimchee) for $10 and a plate of yakisoba noodles, $9.50.
Also, for those that are in a hurry and don't want to wait, there are okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and yakisoba bentos available to grab and go. They looked so delicious!
We were so excited to receive our food. The takoyaki were extremely hot so we knew that it was fresh off of the grill. The best way to eat it!
I was surprised to find that the kimchee was only on the outside as a topping. I assumed that it would also be inside the takoyaki... but it was still delicious! The overall flavors of the takoyaki was very similar to the homemade takoyaki however there was "more of it."
They add much more sauce and mayonnaise so the flavors cover the ball. Personally, I don't care for too much sauce so I would prefer a little less. But for those that like a lot of sauce in general, this would be very enjoyable. Also, there were little pieces of pickled ginger which adds a nice sweet/salty flavor to the takoyaki that we did not add in ours.
The texture of the inside was very different than how we made ours. This takoyaki was very "mushy" and soft. Each bite really melted in my mouth. Eating this takoyaki made me realize that we need to keep practicing to get the right consistency in the middle. We both loved all the flavors and savored each bite. This was delicious. Reid really enjoyed the kimchee and I preferred the regular.
Make or Buy? If we had the time to make our own, I would choose to do this over purchasing takoyaki. It's cheaper (once you have the right tools like a good pan), its a fun experience that can include family and friends, and I can customize my takoyaki to however I want and add whatever I want in it. I loved that we added mochi in ours because it just added another layer of texture and taste that I love. However, if I wanted a quick snack and I was craving takoyaki, I would make sure to go back to Takoyaki-Yamachan. I love that it is convenient, delicious, and very savory. (Takoyakiyamachan.com)
Along with the takoyaki, we also bought yakisoba (Japanese stir-fry noodles). These noodles are cooked in a soy based sauce and usually topped with cabbage, pork and other veggies. They were very delicious and mixed with a similar flavored sauce as the takoyaki.
This particular yakisoba noodles had cabbage, pork, pickled ginger, aonori flakes, and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). I really enjoyed the overall flavor would order these noodles again. Reid felt that there was too much sauce and prefers more noodle to sauce than the other way around. However this is probably a personal preference.
This is another dish that we made at home quite recently. To watch our homemade yakisoba experience, please check out this video!
Overall, we loved both experiences... cooking at home and visiting Takoyaki Yama-chan! If you are new to takoyaki, I would recommend you visit Takoyaki Yama-chan and try it! If you love Japanese flavors, you will love this! Next time we are at Don Quijote, we will be sure to stop by again and grab some delicious takoyaki!
Or if you have some time this summer to make these foods at home, this is also a great way to customize these flavors to your preference. All in all, I hope this gives you ideas on what to make...or what to buy.
Till the next one,