Wow, it’s been quite awhile since my last post. Life got into the way, I guess. Haven’t had much time to cook either, though I’m hoping that will change. Motivation, motivation.
To start with, I have these delectable Japanese-inspired treats for you. I first had takoyaki (or octopus balls – tako meaning octopus, yaki meaning fried or grilled) back when I was doing my PhD. My Japanese labmate had a craving for takoyaki and invited us all over to her flat for a takoyaki party. I was keen to learn how to make it, so helped her out.
She used a ready-made takoyaki mix but of course, we don’t have that in Brunei. I’ve tried out a few takoyaki recipes, and found one great one, I think! Have a peek below.
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dashi powder or chicken stock
- 3 teaspoon Japanese soy sauce
- Boiled octopus
- Spring onions, finely sliced
- Cabbage, finely sliced
- Tenkasu (fried tempura pieces) - can substitute with rice crispies
- Takoyaki sauce (or Okonomiyaki or Tonkatsu sauce)
- Japanese mayonnaise
- Katsuobushi (thin dried pieces of fish)
- Ao-nori (seaweed flakes)
- Takoyaki pan
- Chopsticks to turn the takoyaki
- Mix the flours in a medium bowl and aerate with a whisk.
- Add eggs, dashi powder and half the water. Whisk until smooth.
- Add soy sauce and the rest of the water gradually, whisking continuously.
- Cover and refrigerate for half an hour while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Really great instructions here - How to make takoyaki.
- In summary, oil the takoyaki pan well.
- Half fill the holes with the batter (much easier if you place the batter in a jug and pour from there!).
- Place the fillings - one piece of octopus (or whatever you like) and sprinkle the rest. I like to put in a bit of very finely chopped cabbage too.
- Pour batter until the pan is completely filled and let it cook for a few minutes.
- Gently turn the takoyaki around with a rolling motion until you form a ball, incorporating any loose bits into the ball.
- Pour a drizzle of oil over the takoyaki fry, so that they get a delicious crispy crust.
- Serve immediately with the toppings.
- Takes a bit of practice to get the balls right, but once you get the hang of it, it really is easy! You can also fill these takoyaki with whatever you like - prawns, sausages, cheese, chicken... the sky is the limit.
And there you have it! Your own home-made takoyaki. I haven’t tried “authentic” Japanese takoyaki yet – does takoyaki made by a Japanese student count?? But I have to say, these takoyaki are pretty close to the ones she made. I don’t have some of the ingredients, such as the ao-nori, but I made do with some cut up nori. Luckily, Brunei supermarkets do sell some stuff, like the Japanese mayo and the katsuoboshi. The takoyaki sauce, I actually bought some bottles while I was still in UK, as I couldn’t find them here, but I hear that Guan Hock Lee is now selling them. So that’s also a relief – I don’t have to ration my stock! Take not that the batter for this is pretty thin, and as I’ve found out from my experiments – it needs to be thin!
Normally, I don’t really like “Western” mayo or condiments in general, but I have to say… the condiments here really make the dish! The Japanese mayo (which tastes different to its Western counterpart) lends a creamy counter to the tangy takoyaki sauce, which complements the slightly salty, slightly smoky katsuoboshi nicely. Really, everything just blends together nicely! A takoyaki eaten on its own would be rather plain, I think. The texture of the takoyaki is also lovely. Crispy (when fresh) on the outside, and soft almost creamy on the inside. It may take a bit of getting used to, but I love it.
But of course, you would be thinking… why make when you can easily buy? As far away from Japan as we are, Brunei has quite a lot of takoyaki stallls. My favourite is the one on the 1st floor of the Mall, but honestly… I still think home-made tastes better. One of the good things about this is… it can be adapted to almost any taste. You can put basically any filling you like, though I tend to stick with the octopus. Cheese is pretty good, though probably not very canon haha. My mum doesn’t like octopus, so we make her a version with prawns. I also love the katsuoboshi, so I can pile on as much as I want!
And one of the fun things about making takoyaki (at least while I was in the UK), was that we made a party out of it. A takoyaki party, but it was really just a chance to hang out with people while the food slowly cooked. Though the person cooking may get tired, but you can always switch. And takoyaki is pretty fun to make too, even when you’re still trying to figure out how to get it to be a perfect round. Take it slow, enjoy them fresh off the pan. The hours will pass by before you know it. 🙂