One of the first things I looked for as soon as we landed in Osaka was takoyaki. Takoyaki are one of Osaka's most favourite street foods. These dumplings consist of a batter with chopped octopus, pickled ginger and spring onion, topped with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), aonori (green seaweed powder), worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise.
The cooking process is a mesmerising one. Once the batter has been poured into a takoyakiki, street vendors expertly flick the dumplings until they form into a round shape and are uniformly cooked and golden brown.
Some stores are more popular than others and Otako is one of the most popular. Otako has a long history of serving takoyaki and the consistent queue at the stall is a testament to their reputation.
1-5-10 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Phone: +81 06-6211-5223
There's also the Takoyaki Museum which houses a handful of stalls too. Plus there's a neat souvenir shop for the takoyaki-obsessed (i.e. me).
Osaka Takoyaki Museum
6-2-61 Shimaya Konohana-ku, Osaka
(Just outside Universal City station)
Phone: +81 06-6464-3080
But after tasting half a dozen or so other takoyaki stalls, my favourite takoyaki place would have to be Takomasa. In addition to the original flavour, Takomasa's menu features a delectable selection of other variations including curry and karaage!
We were intrigued with bottles of Ramune (Japanese lemonade), which requires one to push in a plunger to release a glass marble and the pressure of the carbon dioxide.
Another brilliant Japanese invention is this Magic Five bottle which has 5 parallel holes. Endless possibilities.
Now onto what matters most - the food.
With limited Japanese, we ask which flavours are the most popular. Thankfully the waitress realises our struggle and brings out the English menu!
We start with one of the most ordered - Rice cake and cheese takoyaki (¥790 for 8 pieces). Each perfect ball holds a small cube of near-molten cheese. The texture of the batter features small bits of rice cake which adds a lovely chewiness to each bite.
After that, we try the original soy sauce taste takoyaki (¥720 for 8 pieces) and the kimchi takoyaki (¥790 for 8 pieces). The soy sauce dumplings are gorgeous, there's just a really nice balance of flavours.
The kimchi takoyaki on the other hand, I absolutely LOVE! They're a tad spicy and the distinctive sour flavour of the fermented cabbage works wonderfully in enhancing these octopus dumplings.
We are also advised that the green shallot variation (¥790 for 8 pieces) is a common order. The inside of these are indeed packed with finely chopped spring onion! Unfortunately, I wasn't a fan of the moist filling.
So between 5 of us, we commenced our takoyaki tasting session, garnishing our takoyaki with as much topping as we desired.
And once we were done, despite looking as full as full can be, the waitress smiles and introduces us to the karaage takoyaki (¥630 for 6 pieces) which wasn't on the English menu. How can we say no to that? They're extra crispy on the outside and moreish on the inside and is definitely the best variation yet!
1-chome 4-15, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Phone: +81 06-6212-3363
For other branches, visit the website above
So leaving Japan, I desperately wanted to bring all this takoyaki-awesomeness with me. And what better way, than to bring back giant boxes of Takoyaki flavoured Pretz and my very own takoyaki machine plus accessories (yes, I've got the Magic Five bottle filled with Kewpie Mayonnaise in my fridge right now)! Oh, happy days.