A takoyaki party is a brilliant way to entertain at home, particularly with kids. Gather around the takoyaki pan and make your own. You can vary the fillings as you wish. I’ve made ones filled with crab, prawns, cheeseburger ingredients, with squid ink batter – the possiblities boggle the mind. We always finish our takoyaki parties with a round of sweet aebleskiver (Danish apple pancake balls).
1 medium octopus (about 800g, but this will leave extra octopus for other purposes)
¼ cup oil, for greasing the pan
1 cup tenkasu (tempura batter bits)
¼ cup benishouga (red-pickled ginger), finely chopped
½ cup finely sliced spring onions
1 cup Otafuku sauce, to serve
1 cup Japanese mayonnaise, to serve
2 tbsp aonori (dried bright green laver, also called sea lettuce), to serve
a handful of bonito flakes, to serve
1 piece kombu (about 10cm square)
a good handful of bonito flakes
250g plain flour
1L dashi (see above), other stock, or water
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp salt
Remove the beak of the octopus and clean inside, discarding any innards. Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer, then lower the octopus into the water slowly (the legs should curl as the octopus is being lowered). Simmer for 30-45 minutes. The amount of time you cook the octopus will depend on the size of your octopus. A smaller octopus simmered for 45 minutes may be too tender so if in doubt, err on the side of caution. Remove the octopus from the pot and, if you like, rub the dark red skin from the octopus while it’s still warm. You can leave the skin on the octopus of course, but it is just a matter of preference. Cut the octopus into 1.5 cm cubes, reserving all but about 50 cubes for another purpose.
To make the dashi, place just over a litre of cold water in a pot and add the kombu. Bring to a simmer, removing the kombu before the water simmers (when the kombu is soft enough for a thumbnail poked into it will leave a mark). When the water simmers add the bonito flakes. Boil for a few seconds then turn off the heat and allow the pot to stand for 10 minutes. Strain to remove the bonito flakes. Alternatively you can use instant dashi, any other stock or even water. Allow the dashi to cool to room temperature.
To make the batter, combine all the ingredients with a whisk and whisk to a very thin, watery batter.
Arrange all the fillings and toppings on the table and heat the takoyaki grill (or ableskiver pan) until it is hot. Brush with oil, then ladle in the batter, completely filling the holes in the pan as well as the surrounds. Drop a cube of octopus into each hole, and scatter the whole of the pan liberally with tenkasu, benishouga and spring onion. As the batter starts to firm, draw lines between the holes with a skewer, as if marking out a grid. Insert the skewer to the base of each whole and roll over the ball to create a sphere. Cook for a further 5 minutes or so, rolling the balls over periodically until they are firm and crisp on the outside.
Remove the balls from the pan and arrange on a plate. Drizzle liberally with Otafuku sauce and mayonnaise, and scatter over the aonori and bonito flakes.
Tips for Takoyaki
- All of these specialty Japanese ingredients are readily available at Asian grocers in Australia – bonito flakes, benishouga, tenkasu, Otafuku sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and aonori. If you can’t find a few of them, just improvise. You can use chicken stock instead of bonito stock, pink or yellow pickled ginger instead of benishouga, puffed rice instead of tenkasu (or just leave them out), make your own Otafuku sauce by mixing tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and a bit of mustard, or chopped chives instead of the aonori.
- Takoyaki are best when they are well browned on the outside and crispy.
- Try adding cheese or any other fillings you might like. The world is your oyster.
This recipe appears in my new cookbook, Destination Flavour: People and Places (2018) which follows my travels across my SBS television series of the same name. The book covers Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Singapore and China.