Okay, so the title is a little misleading, because it’s not vegan octopus, it’s shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake has the right texture and chewiness for a great replacement!
Takoyaki was one of my favorite foods from Japan, after I went the first time. I didn’t want to miss out on the deliciousness just because I went vegan, so I decided I would have to figure out how to make my own.
Last time I went to Japan, I remember reading somewhere that I could get vegan Takoyaki, but I don’t recall where. Anyway, long story short, I didn’t have any on my last trip, but that’s okay because I’m actually really satisfied with my recipe!
I searched the internet deep and wide for a simple, yet delicious, vegan Takoyaki. I found a few recipes, but following them as posted always yielded in inconsistent results. I usually ended up tweaking as I’d go, too, so after a few tries with different recipes, I decided to make my own. You can watch the video at the top, follow along through this post for step by step, or scroll just below the first picture for the ingredient list.
I use dried shiitake mushrooms, and to get them to where I need them to be, I boil a pan of water and remove it from the heat after it hits boiling point. At that time, I drop the dried mushrooms into the pan and completely submerge them. It can be tricky getting them to stay down, so I will use a pan lid from a pan just smaller than the one I’m using and flip it upside down. It helps keep them all submerged. Let them soak about 30 minutes to get good results. You’ll want to squeeze the excess water out of them before cutting, be careful not to burn your hands (and bonus, you can save the broth to make soup if you want!). Cut them small enough to fit into the Takoyaki ball, but big enough to make it count.
For the batter:
1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour
1-2 tsp baking powder (2 for a fluffier takoyaki ball)
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (completely depends on your salty preference)
2 Tbsp oil (I usually use canola or vegetable)
1 1/2 cups cold water with konbu granules dissolved in it (I use the single use packet ones, about 2 tsp)
1 1/2 cups cold dashi stock, if you can find it vegetarian. But I never can, so I use the konbu granules.
For the filling/toppings:
Your shiitake pieces
Chopped green onion
Chopped pickled ginger
*Possibilities are endless, add what you like. Tempura bits, nori flakes, some people like different veggies, etc.
Start with 1 cup of flour and add all dry ingredients together, mixing well. Stir in wet ingredients until batter becomes a bit thicker, but still runny enough to pour easily. A bit like pancake batter, maybe a tad runnier. If it’s much too runny or you prefer the thicker batter, add up to another 1/2 cup of flour, if needed.
Grease your Takoyaki pan with oil. I generally pour a tad in a bowl and use my basting brush to run through each up and on the top in between each cup, but a paper towel will do the trick, too. Things will get messy, batter will overflow, it’s better to have it greased so it doesn’t all stick.
Pour batter into each cup, fill it to the brim or let it overflow a bit, even. It’s completely acceptable, borderline necessary, to let the cup overflow. Drop a piece of shiitake in each cup, followed by a sprinkle with each ingredient you’ve chosen to go in (green onion, ginger, etc). If it still doesn’t overflow after dropping the filling in, you definitely need to add more batter!
As the bottoms start to cook and are no longer sticking, use a little skewer to first separate the batter in between each ball that has maybe cooked into each other from the overflow. After they are all separated, use the pointy end of the skewer to grab the underside of the Takoyaki, then flip it upside down to let the rest of the batter run down and start to cook. You’ll also want to use the skewer to stuff down any of the over flow at this time. Using two skewers is usually much easier to grip it all.
The flipping is easier said than done, it might be a little hard at first but it does get easier as you go, and the first flip is the hardest. I watched a few youtube videos to prepare myself the first time I made this.
After they’ve all been flipped once, it’s really easy from there. Use that skewer to occasionally rotate the balls, letting them all cook. When they’re a nice golden brown, or whatever your preference, you’re good to pop those babies out of there and onto a plate.
I top mine with okonomi sauce, and a homemade “Japanese Mayo”, which is just half a cup of my vegan mayo, 2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (regular rice vinegar works, too) and about 1/2 a Tbsp sugar. You can add more sugar if you like it sweeter. Then just mix that sucker well. I put it in a ziploc back and cut the tip from the corner, so it’s easier to squeeze it out and onto the balls in an orderly fashion.
Then I sprinkle nori flakes, tempura bits, and any remaining green onion/pickled ginger, over the top of them.
Viola. They are super tasty and I love them.