Watching the sunrise on my balcony

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ozato turtle

At my Junior High School we have a turtle that lives in a fish tank and sits right outside the teachers office and across from Chika’s room. Chika is one of my closest friends here in Okinawa and is the school nurse at my school. I asked her why they had a turtle living in the school and she told me that it just walked in one day so they made it a home. She has become the mother to the turtle taking amazing care of this little guy. She cleans out the tank twice a week, feeds it and takes it on walks around the school. I think she even requested that the school buy it a bigger tank with more interesting things inside to play with. As of now the tank has some rocks and a brick in it (how boring). She was mentioning something about asking Kocho Sensei about getting a new turtle tank at the takoyaki party. I wasn't exactly sure what she was saying though because I can’t really understand Japanese. But I guess we will just wait and see what April brings us. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Takoyaki Party


Takoyaki in Japanese translates to, Tako (Octopus) and Yaki (fry). These delicious treats look like little balls of dough and inside you will find a small piece of Octopus. They are made in heated pans that have small circles carved into it. Similar visually to an aebelskiver pan, if you are familiar with Danish food.  You will find takoyaki stalls and stands all over Japan, on streets, in malls and outside grocery stores. It is a famous dish in Osaka and I will definitely try it there when I go in a couple weeks.
 A friend at school told me she had a 60-piece takoyaki maker and wanted to have a party. So I offered my apartment and we set the date. We invited some teachers from school and got planning. Yesterday after school, we went shopping to buy all the ingredients necessary.  Then the whole gang came over around 7pm and we got cooking. I was just observing this whole process, taking it all in and learning. So first they made the Takoyaki dough. Apparently the store was out of the instant kind so the girls made it from scratch.

The batter recipe
  • 300g / 10.5 oz hakuriki ko (low-gluten white flour): use cake flour (preferred) or all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 liter (4 1/4 cups) of ice water, with the cubes strained out before adding to the mix
  • 3 grams salt (about 2/3 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. kombu dashi stock granules
  • 1/2 tsp. katsuo dashi stock granules
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
My adjustments: I made dashi stock using the cold water method instead of using the dashi stock granules, and increased the salt to 5 grams to compensate. The dashi was ice cold from being in the fridge anyway, so I just put in a few ice cubes. The water/dashi is ice cold to prevent the gluten in the flour from developping. If you are using dashi granules, you can just use a teaspoon of one type (such as Hondashi (which is a brand name by the way)).
To make the batter: Beat the eggs, and mix together with the ice water and dashi stock granules (or ice cold dashi) and soy sauce. Add the flour, and mix together lightly. Don’t worry about getting all the lumps out - it’s best not to overmix the batter. So easy!

Karin's son Catsu helping mix the batter
Tomoko starting to cook the Takoyaki
 To get started we filled the hot pan mold with the mix, which looked similar in consistency to crepe batter. As it was heating up they filled each takoyaki ball with different kinds of filling. The types we had were, octopus, prawns, cherry tomatoes (home grown), ginger, green onions, cheese and sausage. After the second batch we started to get creative by adding curry powder, various hot sauces, wasabi and kimchi to test out the flavors. They were all really good. Once the filling was added the girls poured more batter on top to seal in the filling. Once the takoyaki’s started to heat up and cook on the bottom they would be twirled and flipped over so the other side could cook, using long thin bamboo sticks. The best part about making takoyaki is the process. You sit around with friends, talking and laughing while adding the fillings and flipping the takoyaki’s over and over to make sure all the sides are cooked and golden brown. The process takes about 20 minutes. When they are finished the topping is then added. mayonnaise and tokoyaki sauce are thinly squeezed across. Then they are topped with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and aonori (green seaweed powder).

They were cooked to perfection with the inside hot and soft, but not raw and mushy like I have had before (gross). My friend Karin brought her son to the party, which brought great energy. He is so cute and well behaved. He could speak to me in English a little bit and he was very polite and adorable. Each person who came over brought a desert or gift (how Japanese). So after dinner we all had a piece of this gorgeous green tea cake. I sent everyone home with a bag of fresh mint from my garden and a small bag of decorative cookies that someone brought to the party. The biggest thing I was worried about was not having enough chairs for people. I didn't realize until everyone got there and they just started sitting on the floor that the chair dilemma was over.