Grubbing with Gwen: Explore exotic food options

Gwendolyn Ducre

Bright lights flashed everywhere with taxi drivers’ horns heard on the fourth floor of buildings.

I finally made it to New York. While in the Big Apple, food was the first thing on my mind. But it wasn’t apples I wanted.

Here was my chance to eat all the exotic foods I could imagine whether from different cultures or just plain ole American food with a twist.

I went exotic. On my last day in New York, we went to a Japanese restaurant, Iroha, in Upper Manhattan.  It was a chic place in the sense of its space.

The restaurant had a shotgun style set up with tables that were close enough to eat from the party of six on the right of you.

I glanced at the menu and looked for prices. Eating in Manhattan is a struggle within itself.

My average spending on food was $20 on a meal. So, when I saw meals for as low as $2, I wanted everything on the menu just because of how cheap everything was.

I saw it all on the menu. There were chicken nuts, chicken hearts and a plethora of sushi. Finally, I get to try something new.

But, I wasn’t quite ready to give chicken nuts a try. Though it was tempting.

Then there it was. Something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, takoyaki. It’s a Japanese snack that is similar to our shrimp or broccoli balls. The balls are covered with a wheat flour-base with stuffed octopus. Yes, octopus.

Of course, I ordered it. They came in four with a special takoyaki sauce. The sauce tasted like the Spicy Yum Yum sauce you can get from Wal-mart but fresher.

The balls were what I expected it to taste like, calamari. But it still had a stronger sea-like taste. Unlike the calamari, it has more filling.

It could also be noted that calamari is usually fried in little strips, so they could make up for the amount of substance inside of the battered coating.

When I bit into the ball, I wasn’t expecting the prize in the middle. It was like a chop of cartilage in the center.

I don’t typically like surprises with my food, but this time it was necessary.

The cartilage blended well with the gooey texture the ball had on the outside. Since it was only lightly fried, the ball didn’t have enough crunch. Gooey shellfish would be distasteful.

I’m not sure how the balls were prepared, but it did not taste like there was any added seasoning in the stuffing, but that’s where the sauce plays its role.

It gives the octopus zest while still being able to keep its true taste.

If going to New York may not be on your calendar anytime soon, here’s a mock recipe to get your Japanese takoyaki experience:

3½ – 5 oz (100 – 145g) octopus (cooked)

• ¼ cup (4g) katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and more for garnish

• 1 cup (5.3 oz/150g) all-purpose flour

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp. konbucha (or ½ tsp. salt)

• 2 large eggs

• 1 tsp. soy sauce

• 1⅔ cup dashi stock

• ½ cup finely chopped green onion

• ⅓ cup Tenkasu (tempura scraps)

And don’t forget your Yum Yum sauce!

Courtesy of