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.
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!
Yataimura Food Court @ Shirokiya Ala Moana (and also at the local farmers market for limited engagements)
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.