Balls of batter with octopus sounds weird, but don't knock it until you try it.
While a few Japanese restaurants in town offer takoyaki, the best version of it in Tucson was only available a few days a year. The eponymous stand Takoyaki Balls at Tucson Meet Yourself attracts long lines every year since its inception five years ago.
The fresh takoyaki were cooked in traditional takoyaki pans with spherical indents, meticulously rotated by hand one by one.
As a result, the crust had a satisfying crunch and a custard-like center with a refreshing hint of pickled ginger, crunchy tempura scraps, sliced green onion, and tender chunks of octopus.
Top them with Japanese mayonnaise, slightly-sweet Worcestershire-like takoyaki sauce, crushed seaweed, and delicate "bacon of the sea" bonito flakes for an explosive blend of umami worth daydreaming about.
Although takoyaki prepared from frozen at other restaurants are still worth ordering and addictive, they lack the textural delight from a custardy center and serious crust.
When pharmacist Tomomi Katz moved from Japan to Tucson, the local options for takoyaki just weren't hitting the spot.
"I missed takoyaki," Katz said. "I complained to my husband."
As a result, Katz started Takoyaki Balls to share her passion for the Japanese snack at events. After five years of sticking to events, she launched the food truck in December 2018.
While takoyaki stars at the food truck, Katz also offers a rotating selection of Japanese dishes such as gyudon, Japanese curry rice, a ginger pork bento box, tonkotsu ramen, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba. Additionally, the menu occasionally includes three varieties of onigiri: tuna mayo, miso pork, shiso yukari.
The truck hasn't settled into a consistent schedule yet; they're still traveling to events such as Matsuri in Phoenix and AZ Bao Fest.
In March, they'll park west of the intersection at East Hemisphere Loop and South Palo Verde Road from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Keep up with Takoyaki Balls on Facebook.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...