Food: Asia and japan and Travels15 Nov 2010 11:53 pm

One of my few regrets about living on Okinawa is that there seems to be a limited street food scene. We had some at a matsuri, or festival, but it was cold and gross because we went at the end of the night. Too salty, too.

There is an excellent yakitori yatai (food stall) near us, but we really miss out here on things available in food stalls in other areas of Japan, such as ramen, castella, nikuman and especially takoyaki. Oh, sure I can buy it from a fake stall at my very sterile, very clean shopping center nearby, but it just is not the same there. It should really just come from a little yatai or hole in the wall.

If you are not familiar with takoyaki, it is a lava hot ball of pancake type mix with a chunk of octopus inside. It is traditionally coated in okonomiyaki sauce (a kind of sweet sauce), katsuobushi flakes and the really gross sweet Japanese mayo among other things, depending on the chef. It is really delicious, and is of course best eaten fresh. It was also born in Osaka.

Mike wanted to buy a knife from a famous kitchen supply street in Osaka. I had heard there was a decent selection of yatais nearby, but all I saw were two huge line ups for two takoyaki stalls when we got there. So of course before knife shopping, we joined one of the lines even in the rain, umbrella-less.

The long line up for Takoyaki-kun. It curved out just to the left of the frame and back towards where we were. Normally I would say you cannot go wrong with waiting in a line for food in Japan, but I found out recently that occasionally lineups at Krispy Kreme donut outlets in Tokyo run over an hour long. So I now have my doubts.

I remember thinking “how the hell could I ever pack down 24 or 28 of these things?” Of course that was before I started eating. We got 8.

As we got closer to the front, the line grew quieter. It was because people were watching a master at work. This guy was a star at controlling his … ahem, balls. Constantly moving and adjusting to keep them from burning or sticking.

The takoyaki come with tenkasu embedded in them as well. Those are tempura drippings, and they are all around the grill in the photo. They are a bit like rice crispies and add crunch. There was a sprinkle of nori seaweed and paprika in them, too.

The pan for takoyaki is very unique, and hard to handle, I think. Look how well seasoned this one is though.

After you get your balls, there were huge bins with the traditional dressings. I really appreciated this, since we could customize our takoyaki. Here is the okonomiyaki sauce going on. It is kind of thick and sweet.  Love that they used a paint brush, just like BBQ pros use for mopping their meat.

Just a light drizz of the mayo. We are not fond of Japanese mayo.

Then fermented bonito fish shavings.

People watch the master intently.

Oh god, they are so good. They are hard to handle with just little skewers and also horribly hot. You cannot really take your time to eat them because 1: they become soggy and 2: there were six seats in the little joint, so we had to get going.

near Douyasuji “Kitchen Street” in Osaka

3 Responses to “takoyaki-kun, osaka”

  1. on 16 Nov 2010 at 4:14 am Evan

    I always considered okonomiyaki sauce almost like a sweet and superior version of HP. Still, if you’re talking takoyaki you guys have to go to Osaka. Down on Dotonburi street you can make a night of sampling the takoyaki from all of the street stalls and restaurant fronts.

    Funnily enough I’m buying an electric takoyaki grill in the next month or so for when friends come over. Nothing spells friendship like second degree mouth burns.

  2. on 16 Nov 2010 at 5:37 pm kelly

    Hey Evan;

    This place WAS in Osaka. 🙂 Next time we go I want to go to the takoyaki museum!

    And yeah the sauce is a better version. So thick and awesome.

  3. on 17 Nov 2010 at 3:01 am Evan

    Ack! My bad, no wonder!

    Takoyaki museum?!? Awesome!