Tag Archives: takoyaki

Balls!

13 Aug

Fits into hand with ease, pleasant shape of balls

Have you enjoyed balls, lately?

*****

What do you like to forking put in your mouth? How about some balls? Although they’re not something that comes to mind right away when I think of what to eat (most things I put in my mouth are longer than they are wide) I encourage you not to leave your balls out in the cold.

Let me introduce you to two of my favourite balls.

1. Octopus Balls – Takoyaki

A relative newbie to the Vancouver/Richmond night market scene (stalls have popped up over the past couple of years) takoyaki are balls of savoury dough, grilled on a special teppan of half-spheres. Batter, green onions and/or cabbage, and sometimes tenkasu (bits of fried tempura batter) and/or beni-shouga (red ginger) are poured onto the teppan, and a piece of octopus is plonked in the middle. Once mostly cooked, the half-moon is deftly turned in its place with a long skewer and fried into a spherical shape. Topped with a Worcestershire-based sauce (creatively named takoyaki sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, aonori (seaweed powder), and katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes), this Osaka treat is a big hit, as indicated by the huge line-ups at the night market stalls.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki!

Not had the chance to put these balls in your mouth yet? Try eating octopus balls in the Vancouver area at:

  • Zipang (3710 Main Street, between 21st and 22nd Avenues)
  • Richmond Night Market (12631 Vulcan Way)
  • Bakudanyaki: Named for their incredible size (Bakudan = explosion, or bomb) these baseball sized “explosion balls” are so potent, you need only one. (7100 Elmbridge Way, just off of the Gilbert Road bridge on the south side of the river)

Be careful not to burn your mouth – these balls are hot!

2. Rice Balls – Onigiri

The ideal way to use up the last of your rice, and the easiest meal to take for tomorrow’s lunch, onigiri are the perfect way to satisfy your hunger at mealtime or as a snack. Available in abundance in convenience stores in Japan, I can’t imagine why this treat hasn’t caught on in 7-11s across the globe. Tasty, healthy, and available with a variety of fillings, I would argue that onigiri, Japan’s sandwich, outshines the bologna tossed between two slices of white bread that most North American children call “lunch”.

Onigiri

Onigiri - a versatile ball

How to Make Onigiri (Rice Balls)

  1. Cook Japanese rice, using only white rice or a mixture of white and brown rice. (Onigiri requires the rice to stick to itself, so be sure to mix in at least 40% white rice to get this to work! Also, make sure you use Japanese rice – other types aren’t sticky enough.)
  2. Allow the rice to cool at least a little bit. As delicious as they are, onigiri are not worth losing the skin from the palms of your hands. Once lukewarm or cool, you can sprinkle in your favourite furikake (literally “shake and sprinkle”) seasoning (available at most asian supermarkets) leftover bits of flaked salmon or other fish, leftover edamame beans (minus the pods), or gomashio (a mixture of sesame seeds and coarse salt). Plain rice is fine, too.
  3. Shape the balls. Wet your hands and sprinkle them with some salt before scooping about one rice-bowls worth of rice into one hand. In the centre, spoon in a small dollop of the filling of your choice, such as a piece of leftover salmon, a chunk of tuna, a piece of daikon radish pickle, soft nori (seaweed) paste or an umeboshi (pickled sour plum). Shape the rice as you wish (triangles are most popular, followed by flattened circles, but try your hand at hearts and stars if you dare!) and wrap with a piece of crispy ajitsuke nori (seasoned, roasted seaweed) as enjoyed in western Japan’s Kansai region or yaki nori (dried plain seaweed sheets – used when making sushi) as they prefer is in the eastern Kanto region.
Konbini Onigiri

So convenient, onigiri is a Japanese convenience store staple

Onigiri holder

Hate squashed balls? Try an onigiri-holder!

Onigiri mascot

Already an expert onigiri-maker? Don't let it go to your head

Wanna try an onigiri before making it on your own? T&T Supermarket (179 Keefer Place in Vancouver, 21500 Gordon Way in Richmond, and 15277 100 Avenue in Surrey) and Konbiniya  (1238 Robson Street in Vancouver) sell pre-made onigiri. Check out their ingenious packaging, which keeps the nori fresh and crispy until the moment you eat it.

Let’s enjoying the balls together for two times of fun when next forking time!

Forking at the Festival

2 Aug

Street Food as it should be - Imagawayaki

Every year since I was a kid (and since before I was a kid), the Powell Street Festival has happened at Oppenheimer Park in the area known as Japantown in Vancouver. And every year for the past few years, I have missed it.

But not this year! This time, even my annual summer trip to Japan couldn’t get in the way – I was determined to go and eat Vancouver’s version of Japanese summer festival fare and reminisce about a time when I danced on the stage in my yukata (summer kimono) with the other girls from my Japanese language school – the only brown hair in the bunch.

It lived up to my anticipation. Not only were there lots of cute little (and big) halfers roaming around, making me feel like I belonged to a secret club, but there was food, glorious food – festival food! Join me on a culinary tour through Vancouver’s longest running community festival.

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

Inari sushi – Sweet, fried tofu sheets filled with rice.

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki – Literally, “grilled as you like” these are savoury Japanese pancake/omelettes, usually topped with a Worcestershire-based sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (a type of dried seaweek) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Yum!

Spam Omusubi

Spam, anyone?

Spam Omusubi – A fusion of war-time rations and omusubi (a.k.a. onigiri), the Japanese sandwich (a rice ball), Spam omusubi is a food that I’m not sure I can endorse. Although my Japanese and Korean friends swear by Spam, I can’t quite imagine what grilled ham, sandwiched between two pressed blocks of rice and wrapped in seaweed tastes like. By this gentleman’s face, I imagine it can’t be that bad, though!

Spam Sushi

Spam Sushi

… just in case you didn’t get enough Spam.

Takoyaki in Vancouver

Takoyaki in Vancouver

Takoyaki – Octopus balls! The longest line-up at the festival for sure, the next time you see these, run to the queue and dig your heels in. Don’t give up – these balls of batter filled with seafood (and yes, octopus) are worth the wait!

Imagawayaki

Imagawayaki

A round take on Tai-yaki (the fish-shaped version), Imagawayaki is essentially a sweet pancake filled with sweet red beans. In Japan, you can also get white beans or custard in the middle. mmmm, custard…

Sawagi Taiko

Sawagi Taiko

Okay, you can’t eat this, but I just had to highlight these amazing women. Sawagi Taiko is an all-female taiko drumming group based here in Vancouver. If you’re interested in taking a one-day workshop, they are offering one in September! Check out their Facebook Page for more information on how to register. See you there!

There’s still one day left, if you’re reading this on August 2, so get out there and,

Let’s Forking at Festivals with our community members!!