Takoyaki - Gastro Obscura

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Osaka's most famous dish is an octopus-stuffed fried dough ball.

Tako means “octopus” and yaki means “grilled,” but takoyaki is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Rather than mere grilled seafood, takoyaki is an octopus-filled dough ball that bursts with flavor. First, Japanese chefs toss octopus into an egg and flour batter with pickled ginger and green onion. Then, they fry the mixture into nearly perfect spheres using a special molded pan. They garnish their finished creation with Takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise, green laver seaweed (aonori), and dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi).

Takoyaki is popular all over Japan, but it began as Osakan street food in 1935. Multiple origin stories point to a vendor named Endo Tomekichi, who sold choboyaki, or fried batter cooked in a special pan. Octopus was abundant in the area, so he incorporated it into the batter and takoyaki was born. Dōtonbori, Osaka’s unofficial dining district, remains the best-known place for takoyaki in the world.

These versatile dough balls are now sold both as street food and restaurant fare. Vendors make batch after batch of hot, greasy dough balls, stick a toothpick in each one, and sell them in paper trays. Some upscale restaurants also serve a version of takoyaki as an appetizer, often using larger portions of octopus and adding expensive toppings.

Several takoyaki stands and restaurants along Dōtonbori Street (as well as other restaurants serving iconic Osakan food) adorn their storefronts with giant sea creatures. A gargantuan octopus usually signals there’s takoyaki for sale inside.

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