The Kansai region loves octopus dumplings, but will our Kansai-born takoyaki fan love this store’s flour?

Takoyaki, bite-sized spherical octopus dumplings, are a popular food across Japan, but they’re especially beloved in Osaka and the surrounding Kansai region. For the people of Kansai, they’re not just a street food snack, either, as many people have their own compact takoyaki grill so they can cook them at home.

And that’s exactly what our Osaka born-and-bred Japanese-language reporter MG Ogawa was in the mood to do the other day. Instead of getting the flour for his dumplings at the supermarket, though, he went to Toshinobusanchi no Kona, Japan’s first chain of takoyaki flour specialty stores.

From the outside, you might almost think Toshinobusanchi no Kona is a takoyaki stand, what with its window that opens up right onto the street and all. But nope, this is a place with all the ingredients you’ll need to make your own takoyaki, with the exception of the octopus itself.

The chain’s original branch is in the Neyagawa district of Osaka, but MG visited their newer location in the town of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. There he picked up a Starter Set that comes with a 250-gram (8.8-ounce) bag of takoyaki flour and a 100-gram bag of tempura flakes for 1,144 yen (US$8.60) (the store sells takoyaki sauce too, but MG already had a bottle at home).

By the way, we’ve been calling it “takoyaki flour,” but there’s more than just wheat in the mixture. Takoyaki flour usually also contains dried katsuo (bonito) and kombu (kelp). Toshinobusanchi no Kona, though, instead uses dried sardine powder.

For this taste test, MG made two batches, and not just because he loves them so much that he doesn’t think it’s possible to have too many takoyaki. The cooking direction included with the starter kit list two different ways to make takoyaki batter, with some slight variations in the ingredient list.

The base ingredients are:
● Takoyaki flour (250 grams [8.8 ounces])
● Water (1 liter [22.8 ounces])

However, for takoyaki fans who want a creamier center and a crisper outer layer, you can also add:
● Canola oil (25 milliliters [0.85 ounces]
● Dashi soy sauce (1 teaspoon)
● 1 egg

Once you’ve got your ingredients sorted, the cooking process is simple. First, mix the batter ingredients together in a bowl, and pour them into the half-sphere indentions in the takoyaki grill. Once it’s heated up, add in a sliced piece of octopus and a sprinkle of tempura flakes for each spot. After the batter browns, stir with a toothpick, icepick, or other needle-like utensil to prevent burning, then pop each dumpling out once its browned all over.

MG’s love of eating takoyaki is greater than his manual dexterity for making them, so there was some crumbling as he stirred. Still, he was able to make a full plate’s worth…

…which he then finished with a dusting of bonito flakes, aonori powdered seaweed, mayonnaise, and takoyaki sauce.

This first batch was made with the additional canola oil, dashi soy sauce, and egg, and it did not disappoint. The texture, soft in the center but firmer on the surface, brought back memories of festival food stall takoyaki, and the extra dash of dashi made them extra flavorful and delicious.

With that joyous sensation still tickling his taste buds, MG started on his second batch, this time using just the Toshinobusanchi no Kona flour and water.

Deciding to get just a little fancy, he used the same toppings as he had for the first batch plus some diced green onion.

The results here were closer to orthodox takoyaki, with a fluffier, more airy breading than the first batch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, though, because they tasted great in their own way. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a more substantial takoyaki that you slow down and savor, and sometimes you just want to pop them into your mouth one after another.

As a lifelong takoyaki fan, MG gives Toshinobusanchi no Kona’s takoyaki flour full marks. In addition to the branch he went to in Nishinomiya, they also have four locations in Osaka, and if Kansai is a little far for you to go to for a shopping run, they also have an online store here.

Shop information
Toshinobusanchi no Kona / としのぶさん家の粉
Address: Hyogo-ken, Nishinomiya-shi, Kikutanicho 1-38
Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Closed Monday, Tuesday, Thursday

Photos © SoraNews24
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