Crispy on the outside and piping hot and creamy on the inside, takoyaki is one of the foods that was born in Osaka. The ingredients consist of flour, egg, and octopus. These ingredients are easy to get which makes this food quite affordable. It is a very popular food in Japan, so you can see long lines in front of popular restaurants during the lunch hour.
The wheat-flour is put into a special takoyaki pan together with sauce, mayonnaise, dried bonito, and green nori seaweed along with other various toppings. The takoyaki served in Aizuya, which is said to be the cradle of takoyaki, are slightly different.
Mr. Sogi told us about the why this restaurant is the cradle of takoyaki and what makes Aizuya takoyaki so special.
First of all, could you please explain what kind of food takoyaki is?
Our company Aizuya is said to be the precursor of takoyaki. The first "Aizuya" was established in Fukuoka by Endo Tomekichi. He was from Aizubange-machi and soon relocated to Osaka and took a job at a "radioyaki" restaurant. Radioyaki is a special kind of takoyaki that contains beef, beans, and flour, all fried in a round shape. People used to eat it with sake and side dishes. There is something called "mottainai culture" in Osaka, where instead of throwing things away, people look for a better way to use them. For this reason, beef tendons, cheap beans and konnyaku are put into this kind of takoyaki. There are two explanations as to why it is called radioyaki: first of all, there are claims it was named after the radio which just began to appear at that time, and the second theory claims that this takoyaki resembles a volume knob.
Speaking of Aizuya’s takoyaki, they are served without sauce or mayonnaise. Is radioyaki also served without anything?
At the time they appeared, sauce was not that widespread, so radioyaki was served without anything. Radioyaki is tasty when it is hot but when it cools down, oil solidifies and the taste fades away. After much consideration, takoyaki was finally developed around the local hot pot dish of the Aizu region called "Kozuyu". Aizuya’s original dish was then added to the menu and takoyaki took on its present form. At first, it was marketed as "radioyaki with octopus" but later the dish became known as takoyaki.
Nowadays, most restaurants in Japan serve takoyaki with sauce or mayonnaise. Are there any stores that don’t put anything on takoyaki?
Indeed, most stores put sauce on takoyaki. We do want to preserve takoyaki traditions of previous generations, however the customer’s satisfaction is our priority so our shops do offer soy sauce and vinegar, red pepper etc. We are considering to open restaurants overseas where we plan to offer takoyaki with different toppings and flavors, but in our Japanese restaurants we stick to traditions.
So, you are planning to open restaurants overseas?
Well, 2-3 times a year we offer takoyaki during promotional events that are conducted in Japanese department stores overseas. We intend to sell frozen takoyaki and set up shops. We would like to open up shops in countries where people can adjust to our flavors. We’ve been to Thailand, Malaysia, Macau, and Singapore but I think Thai food culture is the closest to ours. I heard that Thai people do not eat octopus but due to the boom of sushi and Japanese food there I hope that will change.
Do foreign customers come to your shop?
Indeed they do. Korean people have been our long-time customers. I guess they like our flour and chijimi. Recently we have a lot of customers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand etc.
When I am overseas I often hear people telling me that they went to a takoyaki stand that was mentioned in a guidebook, but that it wasn’t very good. It of course depends on the person, but it seems to me that mayonnaise in other areas of Asia is sweeter than Japanese mayonnaise, so that is the main reason why people may dislike it... Takoyaki is still takoyaki, regardless of sauce or mayonnaise, so we want people to come to our shops and enjoy traditional takoyaki.
Please say something to your potential clients overseas.
I want to tell them that Aizuya is the cradle of takoyaki. We want them to understand what real takoyaki is by trying our original takoyaki in Aizuya. Aizuya, having its roots in Osaka, has 9 restaurants across Japan (as of August 2015). Be sure to experience the cradle of takoyaki if you are in Japan!