• Features

JAPANESE FAST FOOD Takoyaki -The culture of shared dish-

  • delicious Japan
  • May 2015

Exclusive Interview: Gindaco CEO Morio Sase "Each piece of takoyaki is small, so a tray of them is ideal for sharing, which makes it a uniquely Japanese 'kyoshoku' (shared dish)."

Q1: What is Takoyaki?

Takoyaki has been a leading example of dining culture among Japan’s ordinary people since the Edo era. It is basically a dish derived from a snack, but it keeps evolving, as a main meal, a side dish with drinks, or a party menu item. Takoyaki is loved by everyone from kids to the elderly, in all kinds of situations.
Japan is one of the few countries in the world with a culture of eating octopus (tako). Other than Japan, octopus is eaten in countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, but it has been absent from the dietary cultures of other regions. But octopus is actually low in calories and high in protein, with high levels of vitamins and taurine, making it an excellent food ingredient. And the best way to eat that richly nutritious octopus is as takoyaki. Take octopus that has been boiled and cut into chunks, put it into batter made by adding tempura batter (as fat) into water and flour, and fry it in a ball shape. The idea of taking fat and protein and making it into a ball with carbohydrates is a worldwide basic principle of fast food, as seen in hamburgers, Chinese steamed dumplings, piroshki, and the like. A dish that can give a nutritional balance in a single meal is a global fast food, and takoyaki does an excellent job of meeting all the requirements.
Each piece of takoyaki is small, so a tray of them is ideal for sharing, which makes it a uniquely Japanese “kyoshoku” (shared dish). “Kyoshoku” is a way of eating that has long been handed down in Japanese culture. It means a single shared dish is eaten by everyone in a group, male and female, young and old. Families eat this way, of course, and so do neighbors, friends, and crowds gathered at festivals, so it is the core of a community. Gindaco is a chain that carries on that tradition, and evolves it further as culture.

Q2: What are the Characteristics of Gindaco?

The combination of crispy batter, fried at the high temperature of 200 °C, with the chewy texture of octopus chunks, is the greatest pleasure of eating at Gindaco. The takoyaki is served with a sweet, rich sauce, of which 50% is dates, and the flavor is rounded out by sprinklings of aonori (green seaweed flakes) and kezuribushi (flakes of dried bonito). Tako, aonori, and kezuribushi are ingredients which had spread very little overseas, but they are rapidly taking their places in the market, boosted by the recent spread of washoku (Japanese food). The show of the takoyaki cook, using a pair of metal skewers to turn the round pieces of takoyaki, is gathering popularity as a “Japanese samurai performance”. The popularity of takoyaki is now spreading through Asia, Europe, and further around the world, by word of mouth.

Q3: What is most important about takoyaki?

Since I was about 15, I thought “I want to make Japanese fast food”. Within Japanese fast food, takoyaki is a dish with high nutritional value and endless potential. Thinking it was the most suitable to spread around the world, I launched it, and it’s now enjoying a worldwide boom. When it keeps spreading in future, the supply of octopus might become a problem, but we are working to maintain the balance of supply and demand. We provide guidance on how to farm or catch octopus, we are setting up local processing factories overseas, and so on. We are rolling out takoyaki with new tastes, like wasabi shoyu (horseradish soy sauce) and teriyaki sauce, but we want to carry on protecting the original flavor of the basic takoyaki sauce, and we hope diners overseas will get to know that taste.

Tsukiji Gindaco CEO Morio Sase -Message to Overseas Readers-

When you come to Japan, you really should try takoyaki. It is one of the few foods that the Japanese people have loved so much, and it keeps on evolving. It’s fair to say there’s no point coming to Japan if you don’t try takoyaki. Another part of the culture you really should try is takoyaki served as a snack with a whisky highball. The sensation of eating piping hot takoyaki with a chilled highball in the open air is now becoming a huge boom. Please try it at one of our highball bars in the heat of the Japanese summer.