I really felt like sushi for lunch today. Mostly because a good deal of it is served cold – salmon, tuna, prawns, avocado, rice – and it’s so damn hot here today. But usually when I find myself at the sushi train, I find myself ordering the Takoyaki (octopus balls) because they’re really tasty.
But almost as soon as I’m delivered my Takoyaki balls I find myself wondering if they’re like the Japanese equivalent of meat pies. Now, meat pies are a great Aussie tradition, some might even consider them integral to our national cuisine, but unless you’re going to some fancy bakery with a reputation for excellent steak pies… they’re often made up of beef mince consisting of cow left overs – ears, nose, testicles, tail and lord knows what else.
Well, what if Takoyaki balls are the same thing? Made up from all the left over bits of squid and octopus that the rest of Japanese cuisine has no use for? Scary thought indeed when you consider the stuff they do have a use for! When I think of it like that – squid testicles, octopus nose (beak?), tentacle bits, whatever – well, then they don’t sound so appetizing any more. Most of the time these days it feels like we don’t know what’s in our food, let alone something like this that seems to be made to deliberate obscure of the contents by the time it’s covered in mayo and flavourings. So I went hunting for some Takoyaki recipes and most of them look something like this:
300gms all-purpose flour
1 litre of cold water
3 grams of salt
1/2 teaspoon kombu dashi stock granules
1/2 teaspoon katsuo dashi stock granules
2 teaspoons soy sauce
cubes of boiled octopus, or your choice of cooked, cubed protein*
sliced green onions
tempura bits or rice krispies
Takoyaki sauce (available at Asian grocers)
aonori powdered seaweed or seaweed strips
Beat eggs and add water and stock granules. Add egg-water mixture to flour and salt. Mix well. Heat up takoyaki pan and oil individual compartments. Pour batter into compartments, add green onions, protein, tempura bits, or rice krispies and shredded cheese. When bottom of takoyakis are cook through use a skewer to turn them over. Continue to turn until golden brown. Serve on plate drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce and generously sprinkle with bonito flakes and aonori. Be careful, they’ll be hot inside.
You know, I think it’s the ‘your choice of cooked, cubed protein’ that makes my scalp crawl. Because while they probably mean octopus, shrimp, prawn, chicken etc… what actually ends up in them is a complete mystery!