As such it was something of a last chance saloon when I sampled the Takoyaki in PNU (Pusan National University.) I’d passed one place many times and had always been impressed by the long lines of people waiting, so despite having a date with a pan of sizzling red hot pan of dak galbi in less than an hour, I joined the back of the queue and tried (again) to find out what all the fuss was about.
Takoyaki are cooked in a special cast iron hotplate studded with dimples a little smaller than golf balls. The chef must keep them constantly turning with a pair of toothpicks to stop the batter from burning, something that requires incredible speed and dexterity. Post – hotplate, the balls are dusted with Katsuobushi (thinly-shaved smoked dried tuna that gives a powerful punch to anything it comes into contact with,) and topped with a spicy chilli sauce and another sauce quite similar to mayonnaise.
It’s advisable to wait a few minutes after cooking before impaling your first Takoyaki and popping it in your mouth. I didn’t, with the result that I thoroughly scolded my mouth and spent the next few minutes flapping about trying to ventilate my burning word hole. The next Takoyaki was more successful however, and I found out just why this particular vendor is so popular.
Although firm on the outside, the batter inside the ball isn’t, flooding your mouth with a warm liquid the consistency of a good mornay sauce the second you bite into it. Delve deeper, and you are rewarded with a tender piece of octopus, perfectly cooked and slightly chewy. Meanwhile the chilli sauce (not unlike that found in British kebab shops) lends the arrangement a bit of a kick, while the Katsuobushi imparts a lingering, full mouth smokiness you can feel in your nostrils.