Today I went back to the little Japanese market, Tokyo, down the street from me. I was looking for accessories to my little bento box–specifically, a mold that I could use to shape rice into little triangles so I could make a thing called onigiri. It’s basically a sushi rice with some sort of a filling in the middle–fish, shrimp, egg–and then sometimes sprinkled with a seasoning called furikake or wrapped with a small piece of nori, or dried seaweed. I didn’t find any onigiri molds, but I did find a little log-shaped sushi mold, so I got that. Onigiri tends to be a little large for me, anyway. The sushi rolls are more my size.
While there, I made friends with the cutest Japanese lady who was helping me. I found pork dumplings that looked homemade and wonderful, so I got some of them, along with strawberry gummies, a fried fish-and-veggie cake, and some furikake. I was looking at takoyaki–I wanted to try something different for my little bento. Really Japanese. I mean, I knew the dumplings would be good. They’re fairly standard. And I had heard of takoyaki on bento sites and through looking at the cooking utensils. They’re little balls of seasoned dough and octopus that are poured into a round, hot, iron mold to make little balls. Sounded interesting…
So I’m standing there looking at this bag of frozen takoyaki, when this cute little Japanese lady comes over to get something for another customer. When she’s done, she sees me. The following exchange occurs.
Random Japanese Lady: (ecstatic) Oooh! You like takoyaki?
Foodie Suzy: Well, I’ve never had it but I wanted to give it a try.
RJL: (as though she’s now decided) You like takoyaki.
FS: *laughs and nods*
RJL: You have takoyaki sauce?
FS: *blink blink*
RJL: Takoyaki sauce! Here!
She leads me to the aisle with the takoyaki sauce. (Well, keep in mind the entire store consisted of three aisles and a fridge along 2 walls and a freezer on the other. Liiiitle place.) We establish that takoyaki sauce is good, but there’s another kind I can get that I can use on other things too, so I decide to try that. As another Japanese girl is ringing me up, the RJL sees the furikake and says something about onigiri to the girl, then looks hopefully and questioningly at me, making the motions of making onigiri, unable to find the English words. I grinned and nodded. (Shoulda thrown an enthusiastic “hai!” in there.) Then the other girl sees the takoyaki.
Other Japanese Girl: (ecstatic) Oooh! You like takoyaki?
Foodie Suzy: (pause, amused) I’ve never had it, but I thought I’d try it!
By this point I’m a little nervous. Is this such a weird Japanese thing that I, as an American, am not supposed to like it? So I take it home, and after a happy dinner of pierogies and veggies sauteed in a little butter and garlic, I decide I’m going to try one. Microwave, pour a little sauce…well, it’s not bad! The texture of the dough was a little too squishy, but I think it’s because RJL recommended I put saran wrap over it, but I think that held all the moisture in and made it soggy. Real takoyaki would be a little crispy, coming out of that mold. Next time I’m going to try the toaster oven or the frying pan.
I was okay with the octopus. Yes, it was a little purpley-pink along the outside. It was a little tough, and tasted a bit like a chewy shrimp. I was fine with it–until I went to stab the last piece with my fork and I raised it to my mouth…and saw its little suction cups waving at me. There was some squealing and running to the boy. But then there was some getting over it and some eating, and all was well again.
And that is my tale of Tokyo, takoyaki, and tentacles.