My taste buds are honed to love eastern food. I usually cook Asian food at home so my children are accustomed to that taste, too.
One of the cuisines that has remained unexplored is Japanese cuisine. We love Japanese food but we usually have to eat it in restaurants. The only reason for that is Japanese ingredients are not readily available in our area. Sadly, there is only a small selection in our Oriental supermarket so I can only make a few basic recipes. I also have to forego of ingredients that I cannot use again or those that are too expensive.
For some time now I have been exploring the idea of making takoyaki balls without a takoyaki pan. I love those little things but I can't/won't buy a takoyaki pan. That is one kitchen gadget I can do without.
I won't go through the details of my lengthy takoyaki experiment but I will explain briefly how I came with the final recipe.
Takoyaki batter is quite thin and only forms a perfect ball in the half dome molds they are cooked in. After trying to cook the batter in many different ways without success, I decided that it is the batter that needed changing. Simply adding flour to the recipe will make the balls too doughy which is not quite the right consistency. I cooked a flour and water paste before adding the rest of the ingredients. This puffed up into a soft ball that is not exactly the same as the Japanese takoyaki but has all the flavours that I love about it. I simply garnished it with wasabi mayo, pickled ginger and snipped nori seaweed.
There are only a few authentic Japanese ingredients here but those could be substituted with other ingredients to get a similar tasty ball. Prawns or crabmeat can be used instead of the octopus. If you can't find dashi powder, substitute it with half of a fish stock cube (crumbled). It won't be the same but it will work, too.
The outcome was certainly more than pleasing.
(for 16-20 takoyaki balls)
1 c. water
2 tsps. dashi powder
1 tbsp. Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsps. oil
3/4 c. plain flour
1/2 c. of cooked octopus or squid, roughly chopped
1 c. roughly chopped cabbage
1/4 c. chopped spring onions
2 tbsps. chopped pickled red ginger (or 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
cooking oil for frying
In a sauce pan, mix 1 c. of water with the dashi powder, soy sauce and oil. Mix in 1/2 c. of the flour until free from lumps before putting it on the heat. Cook on low heat while stirring constantly, until thick.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and whisk in the two eggs and the rest of the flour until thoroughly combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
Heat the oil in a pan to medium hot. Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to drop portions of the mixture into the oil. The batter will initially be a rough shape and sink to the bottom of the pan. It will then rise to the surface of the oil and puff up into a ball. Nudge the balls with a slotted spoon to cook evenly. Cook for about 4 minutes or until well puffed and golden brown.
Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve with the wasabi mayo.
For the wasabi mayo:
Mix 1/3 c. of mayonnaise with 2-3 tsps. of ready prepared wasabi. Top the takoyaki balls with a small dollop of mayo and decorate with pickled ginger and nori seaweeds. You can also use chopped chives or parsley for decoration.
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