This Ain’t No Fear Factor

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I have a bone to pick with people who think Takoyaki, or octopus balls, are made out of octopus testicles and brag about eating them as if they were a contestant on The Fear Factor.  The octopus ball got the name from its round shape, not from the ingredients.  In fact, there’s nothing suspicious inside the Ebelskiver-shaped goodness – just a good old flour, eggs, dashi, chopped scallions, red ginger, and yes, octopus pieces. So, please don’t pretend that you triumphed on The Fear Factor, Man vs. Wild, or any other TV shows that make you eat some weird bizarre sh#@.

IMG_7657Oh, and Taiyaki, or baked sea bream, is not a fish dish either.  It’s a red bean dessert baked in the shape of a fish.

These delicious dishes are from a little shop inside Torrance Mistuwa Marketplace food court.  Sorry, I forgot the name of the place.

That is all.

Takoyaki Weekend

Here’s Kevin, making takoyaki, using a recently-acquired aebleskiver pan.

Kevin was always opposed to me buying an aebleskiver pan. He thought I’ll use it once to make the Danish pancake balls and the cast iron pan would eventually make its way to my kitchen graveyard, along with a crock pot, heavy-duty mandolin, and other appliances that I no longer use. He’s probably right,but we bought it anyway on our recent trip to Solvang. We couldn’t resit … it was $12.

To make sure that we are using our new pan to the fullest, we make the Japanese octopus pancake balls every weekend with it. Well, it’s actually Kevin who makes them, and it’s me who devour them.

Takoyaki
This is Kevin’s creation

1-1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking power
1 teaspoon dashi
1 egg
About 2 cups water (it should be runnier than the regular pancake batter)
2 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1 octopus leg, chopped
Some red ginger
Some tenkasu (tempura batter scraps), optional
Salt to taste

Here’s a little wacky but informative instructional video on how to make these balls.

We love to dress our takoyaki with bonita flakes, aonori, Japanese sauce, and mayonnaise.

Happy weekend! 🙂

Childhood Memories: Tonkotsu Ramen and Takoyaki

I was born in Tokyo but spent most of my childhood in Fukuoka, before moving to the states in the mid-80s. My old neighborhood where I spent the first seven years of my life in Japan is also the birthplace of Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, a Japanese noodle bowl in a milky broth made out of cooking pork bones for days. That may be the reason why I love this type of ramen over any other kind, even the more popular shoyu (soy sauce) version. Although I don’t remember eating much ramen growing up, it’s embedded in my DNA to love tonkotsu. It takes me back to childhood.

On a random note, my mother loves ramen but can’t stand the tonkotsu broth even though she had lived in Fukuoka for many years. Back when my father was courting my mother, he took her to this ramen shop in Hakata known to serve the best tonkotsu ramen in the area to impress her. The chef prided himself in the soup so much that he told my mother that she could not leave the restaurant without drinking the last drop of the soup. She was already full but had to force herself to eat the entire bowl and got really sick afterward. The experience traumatized her so much that she hasn’t been able to be near tonkotsu since. Poor mom!

Now back in the present day, my boyfriend and I found ourselves in Mistuwa market in Costa Mesa last weekend, to check out the Gourmet “Umaimono” Food Fair which featured yummy umaimono (translates to “delicious things”) from Japan, from the northern part of Hokkaido all the way down to Kyushu in the south, including tonkotsu ramen from a highly acclaimed ramen shop, Hakata Ippudo (now also in New York). We tried the ramen, and unlike my mother with her delicate stomach, I slurped down to the last drop of the broth with no problem! The ramen was good, and I particularly enjoyed the combination of oily, rich broth with grated garlic, shredded meat (in addition to a piece of very generously cut chashu pork) and beni-shoga (red ginger), but the dish didn’t blow my mind like I was hoping it would. I think I’d much rather prefer a bowl from Daikokuya or Santouka … they were 10 time better.

Takoya Kukuru‘s Takoyaki, a savory Japanese version of a Danish doughnut Aebleskiver, was, however, amazing! The literal translation of this dish to English is “Octopus Balls” because each “ball” that’s made out of vegetable and batter has a piece of octopus in the center, but some people think it’s a dish with octopus you-know-what and run the other way. Please rest assure that there are no Rocky Mountain Oyster things happening in takoyaki and you can enjoy this famous Japanese fair / carnival food in peace. Each takoyaki ball was very soft and creamy and the sweet sauce, mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of aonori took this snack to another level.

While American friends enjoyed funnel cakes at a carnival, we Japanese chomped down on Takoyaki. I love Takoyaki so much, it’s one of my favorite food of all time. You can take the girl out of Japan but you can’t take Japan out of a girl, I guess. 🙂