Some of my fav Japanese dishes seem to be somewhat simple to make. Whilst I do want to support my friends’ take-away/restaurant business in town, I should try out some of these dishes at home. It wasn’t until I discovered Just One Cookbook that exists in both written and video formats, that I thought if I should get cracking and stopped wishing.

Takoyaki vendor, Ponto-chō, Kyōto. 2014.

The first thing I learnt was takoyaki (たこ焼き). And of course I made a rookie mistake of actually buying en electric takoyaki pan, which was dead cheap at Amazon JP, but I totally forgot about Japan’s 110V rating. Not wanting to spend money on a voltage converter which is likely to cost more than the pan, I then bought a bog standard pan that you put on a stove. Interestingly enough the price was just about that of the electric one. I then remembered seeing this pan at the Japan Centre in London, and realised why the electric one wasn’t sold. D’oh, to paraphrase Homer Simpson.

In the past, I had to buy the frozen version to enjoy takoyaki at home which is heated up using the microwave. However, what is missing will be the crispiness of a freshly made from scratch one. I used Nami-san’s YouTube channel when I first made these, and the recipe can be found in her website as well.

Finding octopus in Sheffield was somewhat difficult. I finally found some frozen ones (from Vietnam) at the local Chinese food market. There are two fishmongers in town, though – can’t remember why I didn’t look there. I took several pieces and gently boiled them in water, with a little bit of salt for taste. One cooked, the octopus pieces were chopped but not too finely.

The batter was easy to make (plain flour, dashi, egg, soy sauce, baking powder, salt) – I have ready made dashi in sachets although the recipe recommended making dashi from scratch using katsuobushi (bonito flakes) which is also needed in the mix and final garnish, and konbu (kelp) which I didn’t have.

The pan needed to be well oiled for the crispiness and I placed it on the largest burner that fits the pan, with the heat set at its lowest as I reckoned the metal pan will conduct the heat evenly. I hope. Poured the batter generously and added the octopus/tako pieces. Two steps which I cheated on were that the ground katsuobushi was added in the batter, and I didn’t have any tenkasu (tempura scraps) to add. Spring onions I had, as well as beni shoga (pickled red ginger) – courtesy of Ken-san at the shop (cheers, mate!).

Rolling the takoyaki using teflon picks (also from Amazon) to fill the gaps with the overflown batter took some learning, and got a bit better with every set of twelve takoyaki. I also realised I had to be relatively quick and on the ball, pun intended.

Once I had done with a set of twelve, garnished it with Otafuku takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayo (Kewpie brand, of course), katsuobushi and aonori (dried seaweed flakes). The crispiness was there (imagine if I had the tenkasu) as was the taste – which reminded me of my first proper eat-in takoyaki sesh at Kureoru in Kyōbashi (the missus’ hangout when she was a younger lass) 5 years ago. What! WHAT?!

I just realised while typing this post that there are a few proper Japanese ingredients in this simple dish other than the common UK supermarket items like flour, egg and salt. So, you may need to go out and look for the ingredients in your local Japanese or East Asian food store. Takoyaki is best eaten immediately, but remember that the filling is very hot. After finishing the twelve, I restarted the burner and made more. I think with my pan size and the amount of batter I had, I could easily make, err… 36, if not 48. My neighbour loves Japanese food so I gave her some. See? I only ate like 30.