My “last few days in Hong Kong street food adventures” continue with another favorite I recently discovered in Mong Kok – the Japanese style octopus pancake ball called takoyaki. A nice escape from grilled innards and sketchy street meatballs, this Japanese delicacy is one I am definitely returning for. What originally drew me to it is the attention this lady was dedicating to the preparation of the little balls, constantly adding batter to some of the round griddle molds and rotating the bits that needed to be rotated. The toppings she added also aroused my curiosity and the crowds of people ordering it helped with my confidence in ordering it as well. At the beginning I thought it was just some version of the Hong Kong waffle, which I have already tried and wasn’t particularly amazed by. I far preferred this stuff to the latter.
Fluffy, airy, eggy pancake balls made of wheat flour. Soft and pillowy on the inside and grilled golden brown on the outside. The batter itself is slightly sweet but has a very mild flavor and the fact that the balls are grilled instead of deep-fried makes them crispy without being drenched in oil. The inside is moist (though not undercooked), with the interior of the batter melting together and almost fusing with the gentle, glossy spring onion filling. When I asked the lady what the thing was, she answered “octopus” and I really didn’t know what to make of this answer until I took my second bite of one and found a tender, only slightly chewy chunk of octopus tentacle, no doubt left over from the octopus on the stick treats sold at the other end of the same stall. On retrospect, the octopus did actually add quite a nice little marine something to the snack, a very slight sweet-shrimp-octopus flavor which blended with the spring onions very nicely. The takoyai was drizzled first with special takoyaki sauce, which is thick sauce similar in color to BBQ sauce, but similar in flavor to Worcestershire, salty with a bit of garlic, tomato, soy sauce, dried fruits and vinegar mixed in. Although takoyaki is traditionally also topped with mayonnaise, these were drizzled in a white syrup which seemed a bit more like a sweetened condensed milk and blended with the salty takoyaki sauce very nicely to produce a sweet-and-salty duality in the dish. The balls were also sprinkled with dried aonori seaweed strips which wilted a bit when touched by the moisture of the sauces, producing a nice half crisp and have chewy texture, while the ones that were left dry stuck to my teeth…in the best possible way. The seaweed also echoed the marine ingredient inside the pancake, while not conflicting with the sweetness of the batter and onions. A very well balanced, delicious treat indeed!