The most famous Osaka fast food, takoyaki octopus dumplings—which may be purchased at roadside stalls and eaten casually on street corners—are actually a relative newcomer on the scene, having begun to crop up around town only around the 1950s. The dish itself embodies the Osaka waste-not-want-not ethos, wherein the abundant catch of octopus from Osaka Bay was put straight to good use in the form of dumplings. While a number of theories exist as to who is the originator of takoyaki, its roots are said to lie in precursor dishes such as choboyaki and radioyaki. Choboyaki was made by drizzling a flour and water-based batter into the half-spherical cups lining a copper or cast-iron griddle—reminiscent of today’s takoyaki—and then adding red pickled ginger, konjac, onions and shoyu before grilling the mixture into dumplings. Sold at venues including mom-and-pop candy stores, choboyaki was likely known at the time as a sort of children’s snack. Taking its hint from this dish, its successor takoyaki involved dissolving the flour in dashi instead of water, and then adding octopus in order to extend the appeal of the snack to adults as well as children.

Its flavor varied depending upon the batter, flavoring, and length of grilling—making it a simple and yet deeply satisfying light meal.

The style of accenting it with condiments such as takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (green laver, or edible seaweed) and skipjack flakes are said to be an influence from okonomiyaki following the end of the Second World War.

Typically made at stalls by young men adorned with headbands, who nimbly work their metal picks to flip the dumplings and work them into a spherical shape—it’s a mesmerizing scene.

Served in boat-shaped bamboo dishes, the piping hot balls are picked up and ferried into one’s mouth using toothpicks—with the perfect takoyaki featuring a crisped skin and tender filling.

Meanwhile, in the city of Akashi in neighboring Hyogo prefecture, Akashiyaki dumplings feature soft spheres resembling takoyaki that are laid out atop a wooden chopping board doubling as a plate.

The eggy balls are dipped into a type of clear broth.