Takoyaki are balled shaped Japanese dumplings made from a wheat flour batter filled with pieces of octopus. They are served with a Worcestershire like takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise drizzled on top and sprinkles of dried seaweed flakes and shavings of dried bonito. Good Takoyaki are served dangerously hot and the convection currents of hot air coming off the Takoyaki make the thin shavings of bonito dance and wave. The first time I saw the dance of bonito shavings I was mesmerized and that was the beginning of my love affair with Takoyaki.
A street vendor in Osaka named Endo Tomekichi is credited with inventing Takoyaki in 1935. He originally sold a batter based confection called choboyaki and began experimenting with adding additional ingredients to the batter. Inspired by Akashiyaki, he added octopus to the batter and Takoyaki were born. His street snack was a huge success and he was able to open a shop called Aizuya in the Nishinari ward of Osaka City; Aizuya still operates today. Tomekichi’s original recipe included no other ingredients, toppings, or sauces, just the batter balls with octopus filling. In 2006 Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan theme park opened the Takoyaki Museum, which sounds more like a Takoyaki food court than an actual educational institution. There is a branch of Aizuya at the “Musuem” along with four other vendors selling interpretations and variations on Tomekichi’s original dish.