Every now and then we see a takoyaki stand doing brisk business. However, most of what we see here isn’t really up to what they serve in Japan. More often than not, here, what we get is more akin to a giant fish or squid ball (as my friend CJ put it) cooked all the way through. While what it really should be is creamy, almost half-cooked on the inside. Having come from Osaka just a few months back, I was missing real takoyaki, which is a ubiquitous street food there, so I jumped at the chance to join a takoyaki tasting which would test the concept for a line of takoyaki carts in Manila.
Food was really only half the story here. This was the brainchild of Hajime Yokota from Tokyo who came to the Philippines over 20 years ago to help in the rehabilitation efforts for victims of the Mount Pinatubo eruption. It’s not often I write about my admiration for people but Hajime fully deserves it. He left Japan with a genuine desire to help. He landed in Manila, without a word of English or Filipino, and straight from the airport, somehow found his way to Zambales where he helped build houses for those displaced by the eruption. He established an NGO called A Child’s Trust is Ours to Nurture or ACTION which helps parents in livelihood projects for the education and housing of children. “Kuya,” as Hajime is known to his wards, thinks that takoyaki stands might be a way for the college age children helped by the foundation earn enough to at least help in their college tuition. Having been firmly established in Zambales, he plans to bring his advocacy to Manila.
In cooperation with Takotakodan, a takoyaki shop in Saitama Prefecture, we tasted a couple of versions. Basically, it was all the same ball of batter surrounding a piece of octopus (tako). The difference was in the sauces. Here’s one using the standard takoyaki sauce with Japanese mayonnaise and bonito flakes.