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Sorry that I've been MIA in the recipe posting department for the last week. I've been stay-in-bed-sick and when you feel nauseated the last thing you want to do is write (or even think) about food; my days consisted mostly of sleeping, drinking ginger ale and watching episodes of "Shameless." Anyhow, I'm beginning to feel somewhat normal again and wanted to post this recipe I was really excited about. Now I know what's going to happen...I'm going to say, "fried octopus balls," and you're going to blanch and say, "No thanks, I'll pass, no balls for me"...but trust me, you'll love 'em!

I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of octopus. It's not something I gravitate towards when I'm hitting the sushi bar or perusing the seafood section at Oto's; I think it's the texture. The few times I've eaten it, I find myself moving it from one side of my mouth to the other with my tongue, unable to swallow and eventually spitting it out. But takoyaki is a whole other story, I love takoyaki! Depending on how often you've frequented Japanese izakayas (pubs) or street fairs, you may or may not have come across takoyaki. The ball-shaped dumplings are made from takoyaki flour, grilled octopus, and egg; once cooked, they're topped with dried bonito flakes and a special takoyaki sauce. You don't see them in Japanese restaurants in the states much because to make them you need a special cast-iron takoyaki pan. During my last trip to Japan, we made a quick trip to Osaka, where takoyaki was supposedly invented and perfected. We didn't care for Osaka much (in fact for the rest of our Japan trip we referred to it as, "O-Suck-a," but we did indulge in some delicious takoyaki there. There's nothing quite like popping those fried octopus balls in your mouth while knocking back a cold Kirin. Anyhow, during my recent trip to LA, my friend Mayumi scored a takoyaki pan from her boss and offered to make a few batches at a party we were attending. Score! We all had a fun night of eating and drinking...and the takoyaki was everything I remembered it to be.

Takoyaki

Special Equipment

takoyaki pan

bamboo skewer

small basting brush


Ingredients

100g  takoyaki flour

340 cc cold water

1/4 lb. grilled octopus (diced)

1 egg

2 green onions (chopped)

katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

vegetable oil

takoyaki sauce

* Variations: Add tenkasu (tempura flakes) or aonori (seaweed flakes) to the batter. Sub shrimp for octopus. Mix in some Kewpie mayo with the takoyaki sauce.


Instructions

* Preheat takoyaki pan.

1. In a large bowl, mix an egg well.

2. Add water.

3. Then mix takoyaki flour in. Whisk until it becomes smooth.

4. Brush takoyaki pan liberally with vegetable oil or dip a paper towel in oil and dab it onto the pan, making sure the surface of the pan is coated well.

5. Pour batter onto the takoyaki pan, filling each mold halfway. Add a few pieces of octopus and green onion to the batter then fill the mold to the top with batter.





6. Let the batter cook for a few minutes, when it starts to thicken try running a bamboo skewer along the out edge of each mold so that the ball unsticks.

7. Once the ball starts to solidify, pierce the ball with the skewer and flip (or "spin") the ball over so that the other side cooks.



8. Continue to "spin" until the entire takoyaki ball is cooked. It takes some skill to get the balls perfectly spherical...practice makes perfect.

9. Remove from pan when the outside looks crispy and place it on a plate. Sprinkle with katsuobushi and drizzle some takoyaki sauce on top. Eat them while they're still fresh and hot.



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