Osaka is famous for Osaka-style "okonomiyaki" as well as "takoyaki." We’ve taught you all about okonomiyaki before, including how to make it at home, and we’ve taken you with us octopus hunting in the Seto Inland Sea where we showed you not only how to catch an octopus, but how to turn its head inside out. So it’s only natural that we feel you are ready to advance your octopial knowledge by exploring what happens to the eight-legged creatures after the catch. Welcome to the wonderful world of takoyaki, battered octopus balls.
Takoyaki is to Osaka what monjayaki is to Tokyo. There’s even a Takoyaki Museum just outside of Universal Studios Japan on the Universal City Walk, with a collection of food stalls where visitors can taste varieties of the snack as well as see the implements used to make it. And since this is Japan, you can also buy numerous takoyaki-inspired souvenirs.
The octopus-enhanced treat has its genesis in Osaka, a city that offers free WiFi for travelers and is home to an octopus-loving 2.6 million people. The city, which often seems like one large entertainment district with party-goers descending on the neon-splashed streets in droves, isn’t a part of any of Japan’s 43 prefectures, but instead calls itself a “fu,” or district. In its own right, Osaka has developed a reputation as a place to indulge in the extravagance of food, or more simply put, "kuiadore" in Japanese. Located on the Seto Inland Sea, Osaka Bay has always been a major port for domestic trading as well as providing a porthole to the Inland Sea from the Pacific. With so much commerce going through its doors, Osaka readily developed into a business-minded community.
So it’s not surprising that one enterprising street vendor, Tomekichi Endo who found himself sampling an "akashiyaki" treat in Hyogo Prefecture in 1935, hit on the idea to improve upon the dumpling and make a fortune. And he did. He still used octopus as an ingredient, but he changed the "akashiyaki" recipe from an egg-laced batter to that of a wheat-flour based batter. And wham — takoyaki was born.
All Endo needed now was octopus tentacles — lots of them. But since each of the sea creatures sports eight legs, and the Seto Inland Sea is a rich source of octopi, he had no problem providing the snack whose popularity expanded to other parts of Japan and spawned takoyaki stalls and restaurants throughout the archipelago.
Another thing that must have helped the popularity of takoyaki is the adaptability of cephalopod caricatures and their kawaii quotient. I mean, it would be a lot harder to sell people a treat based on wild boar hooves, right?
Another thing that makes takoyaki popular is that it is easy to eat. The bite-sized balls make it convenient to pick up with a toothpick.
Typically served together in a box, looking a bit like doughnut-holes, makes them portable so they can be taken on picnics, served at festivals, or eaten as regular street food.
Takoyaki is a comfort food for many Japanese people. Children love it, people hoe into it at festivals and with friends, and it’s even served at rest areas off the highway. These days many households have electric takoyaki molds for making the snacks at home.
If you haven’t tried this delightful treat yet, you’re really missing out on the flavor of Osaka. Watch this short video and see how it’s made.
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