A to Wa of Japan: Week 17

It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with そ (so) and we looked at soba (そば). This week we are looking at things beginning with た (ta). A big thank you to everyone who joined in with suggestions this week: 

Shiotadesu suggested tatami (畳 / traditional straw mat), tamagoyaki (卵焼き / Japanese omelette, and Takamatsu (高松市 /a city in Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku); Haruko-chan suggested tatami; Zooming Japan suggested Takamatsu, Takayama (高山 / a city in Gifu Prefecture), and taiko (太鼓 / Japanese drums); Japan Australia suggested tanuki (たぬき / Japanese raccoon dog), tanbo (短棒 / a kind of weapon), Takayama, and Tateyama (a city in Chiba (館山) or a town in Toyama (立山); lovelycomplex22 suggested takoyaki (たこ焼き / grilled dumplings with octopus); Jay Dee suggested Tanabata (七夕 / star festival celebrated on 7th July), tarako (鱈子 / salted roe, usually made from Alaska pollock), Takarazuka (宝塚歌劇団 / an all female musical theatre troupe), Tanpopo (タンポポ / a pop group), takuan (沢庵 / a traditional preserved vegetable), tantanmen (担々麺 / a Chinese noodle dish), and Tara (太良 / a town in Saga Prefecture); and UK Seikatsu suggested takoyaki, taiyaki (タイヤキ or タイ焼き / Japanese fish-shaped cake), Tamagotchi (たまごっち / a portable digital pet game by Bandai), tako (凧 / kite), Tanabata, tamatebako (玉手箱 / Origami model featured in Japanese folk tale), Tamagawa (多摩川 / river in Yamanashi, Kanagawa and Tokyo), and Tiger Mask (タイガーマスク / a character in Japanese pro wrestling manga of the same name).

I’ve moved to Bristol now, but I’m writing this post sat on the floor as I only got my desk today and haven’t built it yet. Also, I’m working off a dongle as I don’t have proper broadband yet, so once again, please forgive me for the shorter-than-usual post! There were some wonderful suggestions this week, but I’m just going to choose two topics and write briefly. Here are my two favourite ‘yaki’s…

Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Takoyaki, Osaka

In my opinion, you simply cannot say you know anything about Japanese food if you haven’t tried takoyaki. There was a time when I would never have considered eating takoyaki, which is a sort of grilled dumpling filled with octopus, but now it’s probably my favourite Japanese dish.

I’ll always remember my first takoyaki – my Australian friend had taken me out to Yo! Sushi in London to give me a quick guide to Japanese food before my first trip to Japan, so it must have been 2006. She ordered things and just told me to eat them, and then explained what they were to me afterwards. I was very dubious about the takoyaki, having only just started eating fish after having been a vegetarian for a long time, but she just told me to pop it in my mouth without looking. I loved it!

Now I know better – takoyaki from Yo! Sushi barely deserves the name when you compare it to takoyaki from its place of origin, Osaka in Japan. Takoyaki started as, and still is, a street food. It was originally created by street vendor Tomekichi Endo in 1935. These days you can still buy takoyaki at street stalls, especially at festivals, but it is also available in restaurants and even from convenience stores and supermarkets.

On that first trip to Japan I was very grateful to know what takoyaki was, as I found it a little difficult to buy food without meat in it, but was saved when I saw this in the convenience store:

Takoyaki

I remember being so relieved and going outside the store to sit and eat my hot takoyaki on the street.

Takoyaki can also be made at home, but you do need a special pan. The basic ingredients are a wheat flour-based batter with diced octopus, tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion.

Takoyaki pan

Takoyaki pan

(Image source)

After the takoyaki have been served, they are topped with takoyaki sauce (the magic ingredient!), a drizzle of mayonnaise, aonori, and shavings of dried bonito (katsuobushi). It is also possible to get other toppings, such as ponzu sauce and even cheese. Some people also experiment with the takoyaki pan and make sweet ‘takoyaki’ containing ingredients such as chocolate and banana, and no octopus at all.

Takoyaki with cheese

Takoyaki with cheese

So, if you’re in Japan, or at a Japanese event or food market in England or another country, look out for takoyaki and make sure to try it! Be careful though – they’re always hotter than you think they’re going to be. 😉

Takoyaki at a street atall

Takoyaki at a street stall

Taiyaki (タイヤキ or タイ焼き)

Taiyaki is my other favourite ‘yaki’ (‘yaki’ comes from ‘yaku’ (焼く), meaning to ‘fry’ or ‘grill’), but mustn’t be confused with takoyaki as it’s very different. Taiyaki is a sweet cake-like food, made from pancake or waffle batter, and shaped like a fish. It is usually filled with sweet red beans (azuki beans), but other varieties are available, such as chocolate, custard or even savoury fillings such as cheese. The fish-shaped cakes are usually a light brown colour, but it is also possible to get different coloured ones, such as green which is matcha (green tea) flavoured.

Taiyaki

A rainbow of Taiyaki

Taiyaki are available from supermarkets and some convenience stores, and there are specialist shops which sell them too. I remember living in Nagoya and seeing a new taiyaki shop open up across from my school – people lined up right around the corner to get them! Taiyaki are also sometimes available from street stalls during festivals.

New Taiyaki Shop (Kurokawa, Nagoya, 11th July 2009)

New taiyaki shop in Nagoya when it opened in 2009

Like takoyaki, taiyaki are made in a special pan. This pan, however, is fish-shaped, and closes like a sandwich toaster in order to sandwich together the batter with the filling inside.

Cooking taiyaki

Cooking taiyaki

(Image source)

Taiyaki are so delicious, especially when they’re freshly cooked and still hot. Mmm… if I close my eyes I can almost remember the smell of them cooking…

☆★☆

Next week we’ll start with ち (chi), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with ち. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese (for example, you can’t suggest ‘chicken’ for ‘chi’, because ‘chicken’ in Japanese is ‘niwatori’, but you could suggest ‘chikatetsu’, which is the subway.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!  (*^_^)v

11 thoughts on “A to Wa of Japan: Week 17

  1. Takoyaki? Yum yum!

    On my first freshly made Takoyaki experience I was warned by the vendor that the centre was hot. Because the puffed batter coating insulates the octopus, it was very hot indeed…

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  2. Thanks for including my suggestions. Just to clarify, Tanbo should be (rice field) and Takayama is a historic place in Gifu Prefecture. I love Takoyaki and it is one of my favourite Japanese street food. A few suggestions for next week include: Chiba (Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo), Chichi-jima (Father Island), Chichi no Hi (Father’s Day) and Chitoseame (Candy given to children on Shichi-Go-San).

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    • Ah, I did wonder why you had suggested an obscure weapon! I forgot that ‘tanbo’ was rice field. As for Takayama, Zooming Japan suggested that too, and I mentioned that it was in Gifu. 🙂

      Thanks for the ‘chi’ suggestions! (*^_^)v

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  3. Omg it’s 10am and I am hungry already now!!

    I remember when I went to Japan for the first time and I first saw taiyaki close to Sensoji.. I was really curious about it (as I’ve never heard of) and had a go.. and it was so good!! ^_^

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  4. Ah, I meant dandelions for tanpopo 🙂

    Anyway, as for chi, I second chirashizushi and Chiba, but would like to add Chigasaki (city in Kanagawa famous for its beach and Southern All Stars), chikan (something for women and children to be careful about), Chichibu (city in Saitama), and chijimi (yes, it’s Korean, but this is the Japanese name).

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