Ikayaki, baked or grilled squid, is a popular tentacle fast food in Japan. It is an easy, delicious side dish which goes well with a chilled glass of sake. A piece of squid is simply grilled and topped with soy sauce. The portion of squid served may be the whole body (except the entrails), rings cut from the body, or one or more tentacles, depending on the size.
Ikayaki is normally eaten at Japanese summer festivals (skewered on a stick), but grilled tentacles are hungrily devoured at Izakayas all over the country. Pushcart vendors hawk the torpedo-shaped cephalopods fresh off charcoal fires. When grilled correctly, the squid takes a whole new life when it hits the flame. The slimy, flaccid flesh plumps up nicely and the meat becomes tender and luscious, the complete opposite of fried calamari.
In Osaka, the term “ikayaki” refers to a style of “squid pancake” which is a regional specialty. This pancake style squid is prepared like folded crêpes, It is made of chopped squid, hard dough, Worcestershire sauce and optional egg; this mixture is cooked and pressed between two iron plates. This crêpe-like Ikayaki gained popularity partly due to the minimal amount of time that it takes to cook. Ikayaki is also commonly served on the street or at the beach.
It is also a fixture of street fairs, shrine festivals, and pushcart vendors. The phenomenal soy sauce fragrance makes it almost impossible to pass by without wanting one. Ikayaki is easily confused with takoyaki, which are spherical octopus dumplings also from Osaka.
This grilled or fried squid is a must-serve in every Japanese Matsuri. Served open and grilled flat or on a stick, it’s absolutely delicious in any form and a must-eat for tourists, especially food lovers and explorers.
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