Takoyaki, or octopus balls, are probably the most widely spread form of Japanese fast food (yes, it does exist). Their origin lies allegedly in Osaka in 193r, but by now you can find them all over Japan; mainly sold by street vendors at all sorts of matsuri, but there are some restaurants specializing on takoyaki as well.
Takoyaki are made from a wheat based batter similar to the one pancakes are made from (but with dashi, a kind of fish soup, instead of milk). The most important part of making takoyaki is the right type of pan: it has half sphere shaped moulds and is often made of cast iron to allow the takoyaki to cook evenly. It is fun watching street vendors prepare the food, and, as they are very popular and take quite a long time for fast food, you will have ample opportunity while you’re waiting in line… Essentially it goes like this: First, the pan is filled with the batter, then, the other ingredients are spread on top: pieces of boiled octopus and finely chopped green onions and a little bit of red, pickled ginger. More batter can be added on top now, but you’ll have to wait until they are cooked a little, before they are turned over (thus forming a ball) with a little pick.
Once the takoyaki are finished, they are taken out of the pan with a pick and put on a plate (or into a plastic box if it’s takeaway). They are then coated with takoyaki sauce (or worchester sauce) and liberally sprinkled with dried bonito flakes and green seaweed powder. On top of all this goes mayonnaise – if so desired.
I like takoyaki very much, and I have them often at a matsuri, mainly because they are so easy to eat – with toothpicks. After several scalding incidents I have now finally learnt to tear each takoyaki open just a little bit and let them cool off before eating them – the inside can be very hot indeed and has probably burnt many a palate…