In takoyaki heaven

Entrance to the Takoyaki Museum in Osaka, Japan
My friend from Jakarta, Sika, is a great fan of takoyaki and on our arrival in Osaka, she suggested that we visit the Osaka Takoyaki Museum.  It’s interesting that takoyaki, a ball-shaped Japanese snack, usually filled with diced octopus, has been exported abroad and garnered many fans in Indonesia and Malaysia.  We checked with Google and agreed that it’s a must-see site because takoyaki was first made popular in Osaka where a street vendor named Tomekichi Endo is credited with its invention in 1935.  I never knew that Osaka is the birthplace of takoyaki, so we made it a point to find our way there.  

Cooking takoyaki in a cast iron griddle
In Malaysia, takoyaki is usually sold by vendors in food courts and shopping malls, served hot topped with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise and garnished with shavings of dried bonito fish.  These vendors are easily recognised by the cast iron griddle with half-moon moulds where batter is poured in and grilled.  The vendor will use a pick to turn the takoyaki around in the mould to ensure that the hot snacks are evenly cooked all around.

Filled with excitement, Sika and I set out to look for the museum which is dedicated to this popular street snack.  To our surprise, we discover that the Osaka Takoyaki Museum is located within the Universal Studios City Walk among the shops in the mall, just a short walk from Universal City Station.  Until we read the sign above, we did not realise that we have found the place because it’s not laid out like a typical museum.  In fact, it’s just a food court with five of Osaka’s most popular takoyaki shops in one place!

We reassured ourselves that even though it’s not quite a museum, it’s still a place where we can savour a choice of takoyaki with a variety of fillings. 

The "hailer" [Right] using a book to deflect his voice
for better effect?!!
The tables in the compact dining areas are filled with diners and a queue is waiting for takeaway orders from a window along the corridor. 
And while Sika walked around the shops to look at the types of takoyaki she can order, I cannot help being distracted by a vendor standing outside his shop, shouting non-stop in Japanese like a traditional town hailer.  I guess he’s probably extolling the superior qualities of his takoyaki to promote better sales!

Customers queue for takaways at this window
Admission to this museum (which is not quite a museum) is free but we have to pay for our food.  Placing our orders is a bit of a challenge because it is by vending machines and even though there are pictures to help us pick our choices, a bit of guesswork is necessary.  But nothing can go wrong because Sika is keen to taste a wide variety of her favourite takoyaki!

When we finally put down our chopsticks, we can agree that the authentic taste of Osaka takoyaki is worth our visit to this museum. 
Freshly made takoyaki choc-full of chopped squid!
Sika sinking her teeth into her favourite snack - takoyaki!
We have no complaints about the generous size of the takoyaki balls and the variety of fillings like diced octopus or grilled eel as well as the various interesting toppings.  But the only regret is that our stomachs cannot stretch further to hold more freshly-made delicious takoyaki!

On our way out, I see a small shop that stocks a range of souvenirs.  The Osaka Takoyaki Museum at 6-2-614F Shimaya, Konohanaku, Osaka, Japan, is open daily from 11am to 10pm.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 20 March 2014

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