Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack that is essentially a grilled or fried octopus dumpling. They are made in a special pan and are comprised of octopus pieces enveloped in a special batter. Takoyanen's version is topped with a soy glaze, anonori seaweed, house mayonnaise and bonito shavings. They are served up piping hot, immediately after they are removed from the pan. When I arrived there was already a small backlog, and they had just started a new batch which takes approximately 20 minutes to finish. It didn't deter anyone from ordering, however, and most people placed their order and then walked off to peruse the rest of the market.
The takoyaki preparers are a non-stop flurry of action. From the moment the batter hit the pan, three men armed with thick gloves and chopsticks kept rotating the balls constantly to prevent sticking or burning. It was rather fascinating to watch this constant repetitive motion and to see the transformation of liquid batter into golden, fluffy balls.
I have never had takoyaki before, but I was expecting a dumpling that was more along the lines of a hush puppy, for lack of a better comparision. At a minimum I was expecting the middle to be at least firm. Instead the middle of my octopus ball was completely gooey and runny, and the balls didn't hold together at all. They are served with a toothpick, but the lack of consistency made it impossible to pick it up with a toothpick. Instead, I had to lean quite far over the table and rush bites into my mouth before they slid off of the toothpick. I really could have used a fork! However, I am a newbie to these treats so I guess the creaminess is supposed to be there.
Despite the lack of form the taste was pleasing. The octopus was tender and sweet, and I had no difficulty chewing it (which is sometime a problem with overcooked octopus). The batter was savory, and the balls were topped with a soy glaze that was mildly sweet. The bonito flakes gave it that familiar salty, fishy taste, which blended nicely with the octopus. The balls, while gooey on the inside, had a nice crisp on parts of the outside. Will I return to sample more - absolutely!
I was without a lunchtime companion today, so rocking it solo I sat down at one of the tables next to the stand. Soon it filled up with employees from salesforce.com, and I was the odd one out. I actually had a fun time listening to their conversations, from how often they eat at the Ferry Buidling, to the projects they are working on and who they manage. Perhaps they thought I was the weird one, taking notes on my Blackberry and photographing my food. I did get a smile at the end.
Takoyanen will be at the Ferry building every Thursday throughout the summer until the end of August. They do not plan on expanding their menu, but they might serve up a slight variation on the octopus rolls from today.
Rating: 4/5 (ratings guide)
Takoyanen (@takoyanensf) $5.00 for 8 dumplings.
Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!