Takoyaki (たこ焼き or 蛸焼) which literally translates as fried or grilled octopus is a kind of Tempura/pancake dumpling, which according to the web is a popular street food dish in Japan, especially round the Osaka region.
I was immediately drawn to the stall by the fun paced action that goes on. The large griddle which covered in small half-spherical molds starts off looking like a big pancake mess (as you can see to the right in the photo above) which with great care and skill, two lady's keep the mixture turning inside the molds, with the high heat and fast pace flicking around with a pair of chopstick turns them into firm rounds balls.
The price is a reasonable £5 for six pieces. Each tiny ball contains Octopus, Cabbage, Japanese Red Ginger and Tempura. They are firm, but not crispy or hard and the centre is a soft cooked mush. Once cooked they are topped off with Japanese Mayonnaise, crispy seaweed and Takoyaki Sauce, LOTS of it. I am not exactly sure what goes into the sauce it but it seems to be a mixture of Vegetables, Sake, Vinegar, Ginger and an array of other ingredients.
Because they drown the balls in so much Takoyaki sauce, which by the photos it may not look like there is as much as I'm rambling on about, but I assure you there is,especially once the soaked up sauce leaves the balls, you lose any crispiness it once had and the vinegar in the sauce is so potent it hurts your nose when you get anywhere near it! The inside itself was extremely fishy, which a) masked all the flavours gone into making the balls/sauce and b) the dish was surprisingly plain.
This stall is fun, a new concept to London so will catch the eye of the passing trade but, if you're reading this give them a try if you want, maybe you will love them, but I'm definitely not heading back in a rush. The balls need to crisp up, some flavour added and less sauce on the plate so the dish doesn't resemble some 90's floating candle display, then maybe I'll try it again. However, until then... Bon Voyage from me!
Takoyaki Yumi can be found at Real Food Market, Southbank. Check out www.realfoodfestival.co.uk for more details.