Thursday, February 11, 2010

TAKOYAKI



When we went to a new restaurant not long ago, we enjoyed the vast displays of different and differently-prepared items. One cooking method which caught my eye was one I’d read of several years ago, and though I’d not care to eat it, as the principal flavor is octopus, I was fascinated by the ancient method and the old utensil made specifically for this dish.

It looks like a muffin-pan for twelve or so, with rounded little depressions like the half-spheres in an ebelskiver pan---which in turn (and several turnings) make beautiful round balls like large donut holes. The chef just stood there like an omelet-chef at brunch, flipping and turning those round blobs with flying chopsticks.




I held my empty plate and just stood there myself, out of traffic’s way, watching the magical transformation of a puddle of lump-filled pancake batter into golden orbs, crisp and steaming with flavor. The entire top of the pan is covered with the liquid batter, and all sorts of savory bits are scattered about---octopus and scallions and ginger bits and cabbage shreds---like overfilling a muffin pan to make a complete pool on the top.

As the bottom of the thinner portions begins to firm up and brown, quick slices are made between with the chopsticks, moving the thin ruffles into the thicker portions. Those mingled bits coalesce into patties, then rise further as they are flipped back and forth to brown on all sides, ending as plump balls, lifted to a plate and sauced to the diner’s taste with ginger or soy or even mayonnaise.
Some quick-handed takoyaki flipping:

Several of the videos I watched whilst writing this had layers of sauce and condiments atop: sauce, mayo, sliced scallions, more of the octopus bits, shreds of cabbage and even bonito flakes---those dried salty fish shreds used to make dashi for soups and stocks. The final platter ended up looking almost like an immense flattened loaded baked potato, lacking only the butter.

It was just fascinating to watch, seeing the flat panful brimming with a single little lake, then being divided into sections by his busy sticks, and then into perfect little golden rounds of savory octopus (and even sweet items, like preserved plums and bean paste, though I think that must have another name, for it wouldn’t be tako any more).

Chris loved it, and I liked watching all that batter-ballet, with such a beautiful and tasty ending. I try to imagine how just the right shape and conformation of pan came about, and how it was ever thought of that you could take a puddle of floury paste, smudge it around over heat with chopsticks for a bit, and end up with perfect spheres, all the same size, every time.

It certainly wasn’t Southern---it wasn’t anything I’d even taste, for I do not do seafood. But the grace of it, the magical change from glop to glory was fascinating. Maybe it’s just the idea of such Gucci Hushpuppies that I find so charming.



5 comments:

Leah said...

I'm sure my husband would be willing to try them...I'll stand to the side with you though.

Anonymous said...

Who else could paint the picture -love the "batter-ballet" phrase - Have a lovely weekend

Kim Shook said...

Ooooh! I wish I could find something like that here! That sounds like my kind of food - I never met a fish I didn't like and deepfried is my middle name! Thank you for posting about these - I will ask about them the next time that we go for Japanese!

parrowgrass said...

Hey, I have those plates!!

Is that an Indy restaurant, Rachel? I would be all over that.

racheld said...

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Valentine's Day!!

That IS an Indy restaurant---The Journey, it's called. A huge selection of Asian and other food, with an emphasis on seafood.

I'd heard of the dish long ago, on another food site I belonged to. And I'd seen Bourdain down quite a few on one of his travels.