The FooDorama Challenge!: I watch it… I try it!

Jdorama Inspiration: Gokusen

Gokusen is a story of an idealistic, high school teacher who happens to be the granddaughter of the head of a Yakuza clan.  In all of the show’s 3 seasons, Yankumi (played by Nakama Yuki) always finds herself being appointed as the homeroom teacher of an all-boys school’s bottom class that includes the toughest, rowdiest and unruliest students. Undaunted and buoyed by her enthusiasm and fighting spirit, she doesn’t give up and thereby manages to impart to them important lessons that go beyond the four walls of their classroom… like how to win a game of  ‘kick the can.’ ^_^ (More on Gokusen here)

Jdorama Food: Takoyaki

When it comes to Gokusen, only one food stands out and it’s Takoyaki. Takoyaki is a common street snack in Japan; it is basically a dumpling made of batter with a diced bit of baby octopus as a filling.

The FooDorama connection: Yankumi usually hangs out at the takoyaki stand being managed by Tetsu Asakura (played by Kaneko Ken), a subordinate member of her Yakuza “family.” While eating takoyaki, she would usually bump into her co-teachers or students here. Fearing her family secret would be revealed, she would hide behind the stand or she and Tetsu would pretend that they do not know each other.

Tetsu-san’s takoyaki in Gokusen: cooked in a cast iron pan with half-spherical molds over hot coals.

My other Jdorama Inspiration: Another memorable dorama that also featured takoyaki was At Home Dad (more on this drama, here):

In episode 7 of At Home Dad, Kazuyuki Yamamura (played by Hiroshi Abe) tries his hand in making takoyaki at a food fair being sponsored by the neighborhood mommies.

The FooDorama Challenge: The Search for Authentic Takoyaki

Since I cannot obviously make one at home, I started my search for the authentic takoyaki…

Pinoys do not commonly eat octopus (just squid) and it is not readily available in our markets.  So how can I find takoyaki in a country that doesn’t eat octopus? Get it from Japan of course. I asked Pchie to give me a pasalubong of takoyaki, preferably the street-food type. That of course wasn’t possible and so she bought instead the refrigerated ready-made variety.

I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. Instructions on the package were in Japanese and the pictures didn’t help, either. So I tried toasting it in the microwave, and again in the toaster oven because it was still too soft and looked… uncooked.  It came out still looking gooey and strange. Nevertheless, I put mayo and tonkatsu sauce on it… and took a deep breath and tasted it. I wasn’t surprised at the taste: it was… well, gooey and strange. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Fight0oh…OH!: Completely dissatisfied, my search for the real takoyaki was still on. I consulted the all-knowing Internet and found what I was looking for…

The only place around here parts that serves takoyaki is a Japanese restaurant called Hana in Little Tokyo, Pasong Tamo, Makati. Just pass through the torii arch and it will lead you through this corridor (right pic) where you will find Hana at the end of it.

I came in just in time as the resto was just beginning to set up for the evening shift. I ordered a set of takoyaki for myself:

Found at last! Just outside the door of the resto, my order was being prepared by Michael, one of the Hana staff, and you can watch while he does it. The Japanese owner goes out once in awhile to inspect his handiwork.

I watched earnestly how he did it. I was curious as to how they were able to make them into round balls. It was a bit tricky but it was fascinating. I could do it, too if given a chance.

For Php 100, I was given a freshly cooked set of 6 takoyaki balls with ingredients that are said to be imported from Osaka. One order also comes with a cool glass of house tea. So sulehtt!

Topped with seaweed and dried fish flakes, mayo, and takoyaki sauce, my takoyaki tasted just … what I thought it would taste like – strange still yet uniquely appealing. The dough was still gooey but in a good way plus with the chewy octopus bits in the center, I came away satisfied and happy – ending my search for Gokusen’s takoyaki, and walked off (I couldn’t run – I was too full) towards the setting sun – Yankumi style. lol!

BTW: Bear in mind that this may be an acquired taste for some. A lot of Pinoys would still prefer our very own yummy squid balls over takoyaki (and rightfully so!). And if you and your friends happen to drop by Hana and order this, maybe you should order only one set and share it first amongst yourselves just to be on the safe side. Six balls were a lot for me and I had trouble finishing mine.

Hana is located in Little Tokyo, Pasong Tamo St., Makati. It is open from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm; and from 5 pm to 10:30 pm.  They start serving takoyaki at 5.

With my takoyaki cravings fully sated, ending FDC#2, I am prepping for my next Challenge: Shiruko (Red Bean Soup) in time for the Chinese New Year!

My Foodorama Challenges:
Next – FDC#3: Shiruko (Jdorama Inspiration: Saigo no Yakusoku)
Previously – FDC#1: Yakiniku (Jdorama Inspiration: Kekkon Dekinai Otoko)
Takoyaki info source: wikipedia.com
Restaurant info source: kitchencow.com
Jdorama info source: ntv.co.jp, fujitv.co.jp
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