Translated by Lester Somera
Akashiyaki - Akashi City's Famously Fluffy Octopus Treat!
Written by Osawa Kumi
The seaside city of Akashi is known for its delicious seafood. Today we'll introduce you to Tenshin, which specializes in the local favorite, Akashiyaki.
Located in southern Hyogo Prefecture, the city of Akashi faces out onto the Seto Inland Sea, and it is famous for its bounty of seafood, such as sea bream and octopus. This time, we would like to introduce a restaurant that uses octopus from Futami – an area that is famous even in Akashi for its exceptionally delicious octopus – to craft the local specialty known as Akashiyaki.
Takoyaki, the representative food of Kansai, consists of balls of dough stuffed with octopus, onion, ginger and other fillings; these balls are then fried and eaten with sauce. On the other hand, Akashiyaki dough balls are made with extra egg. Before the insides of the Akashiyaki balls have fully set, they are eaten with dashi broth, rather than sauce.
*Akashiyaki is fondly known as tamago-yaki in the local area, but here we will refer to it as Akashiyaki.
It takes about 70 minutes to get from Osaka Umeda to Futami via the Hanshin direct limited express bound for Sanyō Himeji. You won’t need to make any transfers before arriving at Higashi-Futami Station.
Exit the station ticket gates and head left. Descend the north side stairs and head east for a few minutes, and the Akashiyaki shop Tenshin will come into view.
Passed down for three generations, Tenshin has been a Futami fixture since it opened 50 years ago. Once lunchtime rolls around, this popular shop will have lines of customers waiting outside the door. You can also get takeout from the window on the right.
The cozy counters and tables inside the shop will be occupied by both local regulars and travelers from afar, who come to Futami to sample the highly regarded Akashiyaki.
The Supreme Deliciousness of Freshly Made Akashiyaki!
Let’s go ahead and order from the menu. A tray of 15 is 550 yen, and ordering a deluxe tray with extra egg is 580 yen. The prices are really reasonable.
The Akashiyaki is served on top of a slanted wooden tray. This is to make it easy to eat, and so that the tray is easy to clean.
Akashiyaki’s distinguishing characteristic is that it is not eaten with sauce, but with a dashi tsuyu broth filled with sliced green onions. It’s light and doesn’t feel heavy in your stomach, so it’s quite easy to eat a lot of them.
Until The Akashiyaki is Ready
The ingredients in Akashiyaki dough are flour, eggs and dashi. The eggs are beaten with the dashi and mixed with the flour; the dough balls are then filled with octopus. Jin-ko, a variety of flour with the protein removed, is used at many restaurants for Akashiyaki, but apparently Tenshin uses a special variant. The dashi broth is carefully extracted from bonito flakes and kombu seaweed. Naturally, the octopus is freshly caught in Futami.
Here, the cook slides the dough balls onto the sizzling hot plate.
She drops the finely chopped pieces of octopus into the balls, rotating them while the dough is still soft.
Once the Akashiyaki has been mostly cooked through, she grabs the wooden plank by the handle and whacks the top of the hot plate with it...
One flip and the Akashiyaki are done! The cook will bring the wooden tray, which serves as the plate, to your table.
The secret to getting the exterior crisp, while keeping the interior, is the specially-made hot plate. There is only a single craftsman in Akashi who can make these hot plates. By the way, the hot plate looks the way it does in the picture, but it turns black when actually in use.
The Special Features of the Futami Octopus
The octopuses which can be caught in Akashi are famous all over Japan. The Futami octopus is particularly well known in culinary circles for its exquisite taste. The Futami octopus has short tentacles and a thick body, and gets more delicious as you chew it. This wonderful ingredient has perfect springiness and softness.
Several factors contribute to those special qualities: these include the tide and ocean floor soil, the shellfish they feed on and the quality of the river water which runs out into the ocean, among others. When placed in fluffy dough, the Futami octopus provides a pleasant textural component. Of course, Futami octopus is delicious eaten on its own, but it is the perfect addition to Akashiyaki.
Today, Mr. Jindai, president of the Futami Business Promotion Association, who works tirelessly to encourage Futami development, was kind enough to give us a detailed explanation about Akashi octopi.
In recent years, there has been concern in Japan about declining marine resources; however, the bountiful supply of octopi in Futami has not decreased. Mr. Jindai said that he hopes that the city will prosper through the popularity of Futami octopi, as he wants many people to know how delicious they are.
By all means, visit Tenshin to meet its incredibly cheerful owner and to discover the delicious, uniquely local taste of Akashiyaki for yourself.