Most Westerners are thoroughly confused about Oriental cuisine. To give just one example, neither fortune cookies nor chop suey nor chicken-and-sweetcorn soup are traditional Chinese dishes.
When it comes to recipes from the Land of the Rising Sun, things are even worse. Everybody knows sushi, tempura and ramen; for some reason they also tend to assume this is all that can be prepared in a Japanese kitchen. In fact, there’s much more to it. A single meal will often consist of half a dozen or more individual dishes, while Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world.
Takoyaki is one traditional Japanese dish relatively few people know about. Although mainly a street food, there are also restaurants that specialize it (although, as I understand it, you can find pretty much anything in Japan anyway).
Traditionally, takoyaki is made by stuffing batter balls with octopus meat, spring onions, ginger and other fillings and cooking the mixture in a special round mold. Before serving, it’s drizzled with a special sauce and dried scraps of fish sprinkled over it. There are no hard-and-fast-rules, though: if the idea of eating squid repels you, you can substitute whatever you want.
You can also use this machine to prepare ebleskiver, a kind of donut that hails from Denmark, as well as several kinds of Indian snacks – minus the oiliness that comes from deep-frying them.
It heats up very quickly and can cook up to 18 takoyaki at a time, taking under 5 minutes to do so. Its round, elegant design makes it perfect for placing in the center of the dining table when socializing. Preparing traditional takoyaki can be a pretty messy process, though. On the other hand, a skilled chef turning them over with a chopstick is really something to see.
One major drawback to this machine, unfortunately, is that it doesn’t come in a 220-volt version. Made by a Japanese company, it will work in that country as well as the U.S.A, but Europeans will have to look elsewhere. The manual is also in Japanese only, although you shouldn’t need any help finding the on/off switch.