Osa Tako Hero: Takoyaki Cart, Ultimate Street Food for Frozen Vancouver Days
700 West Pender Street, downtown Vancouver
What’s perfect for ice cold Vancouver days? You guessed it, hot, fried Takoyaki balls! Bundled up with toque, scarf, winter coat and gloves, I decided to brave the sunny but freezing cold weather for a tray of the scrumptious fried balls.
I could hear the sizzle of the Takoyaki pan and smell the delicious aroma of fried dough wafting from the little Osa Tako Hero cart from halfway down the block. Blaring from a little radio in the cart was also some catchy Japanese pop music. As soon as I walked up to the cart, I spotted the cartoon Osa Tako Hero characters that I had been reading about on Twitter and hearing about from fellow bloggers. If you visit Osa Tako Hero’s website, you’ll find out that each character has an intricate back story. And nobody loves a good story more than I do. I love this cart already!
The guy manning the cart today was wearing an orange bandana just like one of the Osa Tako Hero characters, Takuo Endo, I’m not sure if Takuo Endo’s character is loosely based on him or not. But the whole ‘concept’ of the characters and the Osa Tako Hero cart’s menu is that each Takoyaki ball is considered a ‘hero,’ you pick the number of heroes you’d like than arm the hero with a ‘Flag’: regular takoyaki sauce or spicy, you can upgrade the hero’s powers with additional items, otherwise known as toppings such as shredded seaweed (Ninja Black Nori Sword), cheese (Samurai Cheese Armour), or Canadian Maple syrup (Kanata Maple Shield) and more. And yes, the toppings known as ‘power up’ items on the website also each have a back story. What are the heroes fighting against? Who other than the evil characters of Shimiro and Warumong destroying the earth of course. Once I finally understood the menu (and the back stories), it became pretty fun to place an order.
I went with what the guy manning the cart called a ‘fusion order’ five takoyaki balls with regular sauce and maple syrup and five takoyaki balls with spicy sauce and lots of shredded cheese. Like I’ve always said about cheese ramen, the Japanese are one of the only Asian cultures who know what to do with cheese. And cheese and fried food go hand in hand.
It was entertaining to watch my takoyaki balls being prepared, being poked around by the little fondue pokers as they bubbled and browned on each side. They smelled incredible as they were cooking. Before long, a queue of people were waiting behind me.
I couldn’t wait to dig in when my order was ready! Drizzled with Japanese mayo, the takoyaki balls were piping hot when served to me. It was pretty excruciating to wait for them to cool down enough to gobble. My first bite a few minutes later was pretty amazing. I wasn’t prepared for these little balls cooked at a food cart to taste so delicious as if they came right out of a restaurant deep fryer. Crispy and delicate on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, and tucked right in the center is a large, tender piece of octopus. Altogether, it was a pretty extraordinary package with many different textures. And the balls are perfectly bite-sized, making them a dangerously addictive snack. They are advertised as having health benefits though. See below.
I loved that the sweet and nutty maple syrup enhanced the sweetness in the regular takoyaki sauce. Also, I’ll eat maple syrup in practically anything (the Canadian in me, I guess). The runny syrup also offset some of the thick creaminess of the Japanese mayo. It was a winning combo.
I was a little bit nervous about the spicy takoyaki sauce. I am a bit of a spice wimp. But the spicy sauce turned out to be pretty mild even by my standards. I think this may also have been because the spicy sauce was balanced by the massive amount of cheese melted on top. The salty, gooey cheese was perfect on top of the fried octopus balls making this snack substantial enough to be a full lunch.
I’m also happy to report that the piece of tasty octopus at the center of each ball was pretty sizable. You really get a meaty, slightly chewy, tender piece of seafood.
It’s about time a takoyaki cart opened downtown! It’s such a treat to be eating these round morsels of deep fried goodness outside of the Richmond Night Market! I will totally be back for more.