To be honest, I am not your typical Portland foodie. I love food, appreciate the art of cooking, can prepare fresh healthy foods, but I don’t frequent the restaurant, bar and food-cart scene that we are known for here in Portland. I work downtown and live on the outskirts, have fatherly obligations to consider, so my free time isn’t particularly free. With that said, I was recently challenged to dine on Takoyaki, aka Octopus Balls, a common Japanese street food that can be enjoyed locally thanks to the nearby food-cart, Zendako.
I try to be open minded when it comes to diverse and multicultural foods, and pride myself on trying new things, but to be honest I am not particularly fond of octopus, I think it’s the tentacles. Or maybe the texture. Or just the idea of eating octopus. But hey! I was challenged to try them, and my inner child couldn’t resist the proverbial gauntlet being thrown down on me, because after all…a challenge is a challenge!
I purchased these Octopus Balls from the cart, located on Washington Street between Park and 10th, in case you’re interested, and paraded them back to the Hotel to complete the challenge in full view of the challenger, and an assortment of witnesses made up of fellow employees here at the Hotel. It was a slow day.
My take on it? About what I expected. Minced octopus made up into meatball size balls with egg, ginger and dashi (a stock made with fish and kelp, apparently common in Japanese cooking) and breaded with dried bonito flakes. It has an especially pungent fishy smell to this American palate, and has that chewy texture that I mentioned earlier, one which my American palate can reasonably associate with octopi. Would I try them again? Sure! Well, that might depend on who’s challenging me.
As far as Japanese food goes, I think I’ll stick with sushi.