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Takoyaki Yama-Chan

Upon my routine Saturday morning stroll around the KCC Farmers Market yesterday, who happens to be there for the first time is Takoyaki Yama-Chan. Which may sound familiar to you Shirokiya Yataimura Food Court regulars (like me), as they’re the same guys.

You regulars here know I’m bent on Japanese Shoyu Ramen, therefore always eat that at Yataimura, never ever bothering to try the fresh-cooked Takoyaki at Yama-Chan that’s right there in your face. They definitely make themselves known with their open window where you can watch them skillfully cook large batches of Takoyaki, along with a big screen TV blaring their product loudly, along with a Japanese drum that’s beat every time a fresh batch is ready for the “tabemasu-ing”. lol

Not sure which one to order, fortunately this super hot local chick in front of me was explaining to her boyfriend which one to get. So I asked her which one to get, acting like her 2nd boyfriend, and she gladly said to get the Mayo-Ponzu sauce. Shoots, sounds like a plan, girlfriend. lol

Let’s now follow in steps as the skilled Takoyaki chef demonstrates his craft.

Takoyaki are cooked on a special commercial-grade cast iron griddle/grill featuring half-orb shaped pockets, yielding cooked Takoyaki about the size of a golf ball. The Takoyaki grills are arranged on a steel rack over propane burners underneath, set at very high temperature so the cooking process is very quick.

The chef begins by pouring just a little of the special pancake type of batter in the pockets, then places either 1 large piece or several smaller pices of cut, parboiled Tako in each one. To note, the Tako they use is locally caught in Hawaii, not imported from Japan, which the chef said is almost as expensive as the Japanese Tako. Shoots, I’ll take the fresh caught local tako any day!

After the tako is placed in every single pocket, he then fills the wall-lined grill with the rest of the Takoyaki pancake batter to just over level.

Next goes on a light sprinkling of Tenkatsu, which are basically bits ‘n pieces of fried tempura batter about the size of rice crispies. This gives the Takoyaki a unique texture constrast as you bite into it. Brilliant!

Next goes on Beni Shoga, the red stuff, which is a tart pickled ginger, along with chopped Negi, which is green onion. This will provide fantastic flavor contrast to the meaty Tako and the pancake batter. Again, brilliant! And that’s basically it for the core Takoyaki ingredients.

Next, the chef skillfully works his way across the Takoyaki grill, turning each morsel with what looks like metal Korean style “chopsticks” that are held one in each hand. He uses that to work the batter around each Takoyaki, transforming them into an orb shape as it begins cooking forming a toasty crust. This goes on, one-by-one, very quickly, requiring his undivided attention, lest they should burn.

Can we say “Twerkin’ it”? lol

He continues with them two-handed metal “chopsticks”, methodically going across the grill, “twerkin” each Takoyaki. Hey, there’s a new name!: “Twerkoyaki”. lol

It’s pretty neat watching the Takoyaki cooking process and how it transforms.

Almost pau.

Hai, dekimashita (all pau). Well, not quite yet. It still needs the sauce(s) and/or topping of your choice, bonito flakes and nori to complete the dish.

That there’s the cheese with negi.

That’s the Mayo Ponzu, which to note also has Takoyaki Sauce, that tastes sort of like a sweetened Worcestershire sauce. Basically the same as Okonomiyaki sauce.

That there’s the 8-Piece Mayo-Ponzu. Hungry yet?

That’s also the Mayo-Ponzu, completed with the shaved Katsuobushi, Chopped Negi, Nori, Mayo-Ponzu and Takoyaki Sauce. That one’s also got my name on it. Hai, domo!

And here’s my same Mayo-Ponzu Takoyaki ($8), which made my quick 5-minute drive back home in Waikiki all in one piece. Or make that 8 pieces.

OK, let’s do this. Takoyaki hajimemashite no tabemashoka (first time trying it)!

And? Hang on, let me bite more into it.

OMG, this stuff ROCKS! Oh Takoyaki, where have you been all my life? “We’ve been there at Shirokiya all that time, but you were being a Ramen b#tch and paid no attention to us.”Oh Takoyaki, I’m so in love with you now. I promise to be yours forever. Kiss-kiss-kiss, muah!. LOL!!!

Seriously, wow! You get the toasty outside crust of the takoyaki batter, then as you bite through, the “zip” from the slightly tart Beni Shoga teases your tongue, followed by the “meaty”, chewy yet tender piece of tako, rounded out be the smokey bonito flakes, earthy furikake nori and bite from the green onion.

The mayo-ponzu sauce was a great choice, which I thank my girfriend for a split second at KCC Farmers Market on that recommendation. lol The combination of the rich and creamy mayo, along with the robust and acidic ponzu and spicy element from the Takoyaki (Okonomiyaki) sauce was total “money”.

Most importantly, there was an adequate amount of Tako in each one, letting each element of the Takoyaki shine around it. In otherwords, all the ingredients were well balanced in quantity.

If there’s only one negative to say, would be the takoyaki batter was a bit undercooked (raw) in the center part where the tako is. However, there was something I kinda’ liked about that, as it helped infuse the flavor of the Tako vs. had it been thoroughly cooked, the chunk of Tako may have been just “floating” inside of it.

Although the batter was a bit undercooked in the center, that doesn’t detract from me giving Takoyaki Yama-Chan a resounding 5 Ume Musubi. SUGOI OISHIKATA! So awesome, I actually contemplated either driving back to KCC Farmers Market, or to Shirokiya for more, as I made VERY QUICK WORK of the 8 pieces I had.

Next time you hit Yataimura Food Court in Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center (on the THIRD LEVEL), make it a point to try the fresh ‘n hot Takoyaki. Like my temporary second girflriend, I highly recommend the Mayo-Ponzu sauce. SUGOI!

Takoyaki Yama-Chan
Yataimura Food Court @ Shirokiya Ala Moana (and also at the local farmers market for limited engagements)
Yelp.com/Biz/Honolulu/Takoyaki Yama-Chan

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

P.S. If you follow local news, you probably heard there was a tragic accident last weekend at the KCC Farmers Market that involved a worker for Licious Dishes and the truck driver of Ma’o Farms. Both regular, very popular vendors at the market.

The gist of the incident is the truck driver of Ma’o Farms allegedly lost control of the vehicle, hitting Licious Dishes’ stall as they were setting up, striking Anne Runland, a relatively new worker for Licious Dishes, who died from her injuries.

I’m still shaken by this myself, as I had just done a really nice article on Licious Dishes this month for Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s AroundHawaii.com website.

Appropriately, Licious Dishes and Ma’o Farms set-up a memorial for beloved Annie at the KCC Farmers Market yesterday.

Na waimaka, o ka lani, Annie.

19 thoughts on “Takoyaki Yama-Chan

  • March 23, 2014 at 9:42 am
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    I love that place. Each time I go to Hawai’i, I always have to stop by shirokiya and its a must to stop by the shirokiya food court just to have a look around and window drool.

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  • March 23, 2014 at 9:47 am
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    Takoyaki so popular street food in Asia. I miss it back from trip last year now could get in Honolulu. The one I had in Taipei was size of your fist that how big they make it. Taiwan style and small ones like in Japan too.

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  • March 23, 2014 at 11:02 am
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    Takoyaki- bring some when you guys come to Oregon next month.
    Haven’t had some since Shirokiya days.
    Save the date, April 19,2014
    See ya when you’re here. Aloha

    Reply
  • March 23, 2014 at 11:07 am
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    @ DCOhana – Takoyaki won’t do well over a 5 hour flight. It has to be eaten cooked hot ‘n fresh. Reheating will make the tako rubbery and the batter like glue.

    @ Amy – I wouldn’t want Takoyaki any larger than the golf ball size they are. Even softball size would be too big, IMO. That’s what I love about Japanese cuisine, is their “less is more, quality vs. quantity” approach.

    @ Dan T – I’m always surprised when I talk to tourists here and ask them if they’ve been to Shirokiya’s Yataimura Food Court, and they’re like “What and where’s that?” Then when I explain it, they’re like “OMG, we’re SO THERE!”

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    • March 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm
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      Pomai, you do take great photos but I think Shirokiya is better for the ingredients he use. The big size one in Taipei did not taste as good as the small ones. Guese too big hardly cooked that well. Small ones in Taipei cost USD 6 for 1.00.

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  • March 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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    First and foremost…. much Aloha to the family and friends of Annie Runland. I’m so very sorry for your loss. It appears she was a lovely, happy person. I hope you can hold that picture of her in your hearts.
    Now; Pomai, this meal looks like something I’ll seek out. I would love to watch the process of it being prepared. And I’d be more than happy to consume the results. ;-) The foodie guy in me is fascinated by some of the techniques I see in Japan. I was touring with Amy there, one of my first trips to Japan with her, and I kept asking all these food nerd questions from the chefs and servers, which they invariably answered politely. Finally, Amy just said, “Marcus- just shut up and eat.” Lol..

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  • March 23, 2014 at 4:11 pm
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    Pomai,

    Your friend Carol at CAB Cooks Blog new website: http://www.cabcooks.com/ purchased a takoyaki cast iron pan on Amazon and did a story about cooking with it to make her first and second batch of takoyaki on 4 Jan 2014 at home.

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  • March 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm
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    OMG I love takoyaki! I love it so much that I bought my own cast iron pan to make at home.

    I actually cook my takoyaki a bit longer so that the insides are cooked more. And they get even more puffy. Love the extra crunch on the outside too.

    So glad you found takoyaki, Pomai!

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  • March 24, 2014 at 5:14 am
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    @ Carol – I’m torn now. I feel like I’m leaving my girlfriend, Shoyu Ramen. lol But hey, we all must move on, right? ;-)

    @ Ken-San – Your infatuation with “unitasker” kitchen gadgets (Takoyaki epitomizes that!) kinda’ frightens me. lol

    @ Marcus – Mahalo nui for the warm aloha. I was kindly invited by Sylvia to a private party at Licious Dishes in celebration of Annie, however I didn’t know her personally, therefore decided to leave it just that: private. This post is my tribute to her. :-)

    Now you have me confused. Is the Amy that posts here your “other half”?

    “Just Shut Up and Eat” would be GREAT NAME for a BLOG! Here’s a restaurant named that:
    http://www.shutupandeatpdx.com/

    I’m thinkin’ for a blog, make it strictly food photos “stacked” masonry style, like pinterest.

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    • March 24, 2014 at 5:48 am
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      No, I’m referring to Amy Hanaial’i…. I’ve worked with her for years as her bassist…. several cds, and a fair amount of touring, including some memorable trips to Japan. I sometimes refer to those as “food tours with some concerts thrown in”. Lol

      Reply
    • March 25, 2014 at 2:21 am
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      Back in high school my time we have boyfriends and girlfriends of the week. We only together for a week after that we say goodbye and see other people. Well high school teenagers are funny at time

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  • March 24, 2014 at 6:20 am
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    Pomai: I gotta give you credit. You use of the the phrase beni shoga — most people these days don’t know what that is. They only know “pickled ginger” or maybe the slang term “gari”.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 7:28 am
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    @ Alan – I’m quite the Beni Shoga fan, actually, having a container of it in my fridge at all times, along with Takuwan and Ume. I’m pretty much “BFF” with ANY Tsukemono…

    @ Marcus– Well DUH. I should have known that you’re the bassist for the AMAZING Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom. What was I thinking? lol

    Marcus, you should seriously consider starting your own food blog titled MARCUS’ MUSIC FOOD GIGS. Tell the story of the life as a traveling professional musician (bassist) and your culinary adventures while doing so. That’d be OFF THE CHAIN!

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    • March 24, 2014 at 3:42 pm
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      Touring the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and witnessing the auction, followed by the freshest fish I ever had, with ice cold beer (at 7:00 am…lol)…. that was off the chain! I’ll never forget that.

      Reply
  • March 24, 2014 at 8:56 am
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    You have to try it hot off the griddle for the mouth-burning Takoyaki experience! I’ve only had it in Osaka and every time I am amazed that the local folks can eat it right off the griddle and I am doing the toss-it-around-your-mouth and blowing in and out thing!

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  • March 25, 2014 at 4:48 am
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    Pomai, you know what is really good? Spamyaki. Substitute Spam for the tako. It is really delicious! We have Tako and Spam yaki parties at my house. My friend has a takoyaki griddle and brings it over.

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  • March 25, 2014 at 5:46 am
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    @ Gayle – Ken-San eMailed a few links to Takoyaki Grills for the home that are quite affordable and garner decent reviews. There’s also a European version called Ebelskiver, of which Lodge, the same folks who make cast iron pan.

    I was watching a few YouTube videos on Takoyaki demos, where they were putting Scallops and shrimp as alternatives. That sounds great! I’m thinking a good vegetarian version would be marinaded shiitake mushrooms and eggplant. “Shiitakeyaki”.

    @ Alan – By the time I reached home not long after, they were still “hot”. Speaking of mouth-burning, after reading several articles on Takoyaki, some say the dough inside is supposed to be a little soft ‘n “molten”, not fully cooked through like a conventional pancake.

    @ Marcus– You know, one thing I still haven’t done yet is check out the Honolulu fish auction block at Pier 38 early in the morning during the action.

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  • March 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm
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    I can’t believe you’re just now trying takoyaki for the first time? All those years you could get them hot off the grill at Shirokiya — wasted! Do you know what I would give?? Well at least now you know what you’re missing, and you’ll hopefully make up for lost time!

    Takoyaki is far and away my all-time favorite Japanese street food. The brown, griddled outside, the creamy inside, the chewy tako, the clean, gingery-goodness of the beni shoga … gah!! Mayo-ponzu is good, but I really like it with goma mayo. If they offer it at Yama-Chan, give it a try!

    Reply
    • March 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm
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      Debbie-Chan,

      Hai, hajimemashita ka. I know, right? “Wasted years” is a sentiment I’m quite familiar with. :-|

      I’ll ask the folks at Takoyaki Yama-Chan about Goma Mayo when I hit Shirokiya this weekend. I’m also curious about the cheese sauce, however I kinda’ don’t trust Japanese Cheese, kinda’ like I wouldn’t trust European “Ramen”. Ya’ know? ;-)

      Reply

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