With the Republican presidential candidates attending the Iowa state fair in preparation for the Iowa straw poll, NPR had to do its obligatory story on “fried food on a stick.” This year’s gross-out item was deep-fried butter on a stick. Well, in Japan, one needn’t go to the state fair (or rather, whatever the local festival is) to have food on a stick. There are sit-down restaurants devoted to fried food on a stick. We ate a couple of them, enjoying chicken, pork, mushrooms, quail eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, small fish, pumpkin (the green Japanese kind), potato, and probably something else I can’t remember. Dip the item into a sauce, or salt, or green sancho pepper (like black pepper but with a tingle and a citrusy flavor), and enjoy! Then reach for another.
As you will see included with almost all Japanese meals, you can see the small dish of pickled vegetable in this photo, and in this case also a dish of cabbage for “cleansing the palate” between fried items.
You don’t have to go to a restaurant for your fried food on a stick, however. When we were in Osaka, the takoyaki that Keiko and I had were served with skewers, not chopsticks. So I guess you could hold your octopus doughball on the stick and eat it that way. I think it would have been easier to use chopsticks.
What if you like food on a stick but are not a fan of deep frying? You can get that too. In Kyoto I passed by a shop with this display out front:
I have no idea if you are supposed to eat these octopuses as they are, or if maybe you buy a few to take home and fry up fresh for dinner. Or maybe you could do the other deep-frying: tempura. Greg and I took a cooking lesson with a very nice woman named Emi, in her home in Kyoto. She taught us to make tempura by combining half an egg (150 ml) and a combined 150 ml of flour and water, mixing it until combined but lumpy, and smearing the mixture by hand over whatever food you want to eat. While in Japan we tried tempura-style food of many different kinds (including nori and flowers and lotus root and pumpkin), but Emi introduced us to Japanese-style wheat gluten. We were familiar with the seitan-style wheat gluten, but the Japanese style is more like a thick gel. First, put the wheat gluten on a small stick. Then coat in tempura batter and deep fry.
My last food on a stick is not fried. In Takayama, we went to a tofu restaurant. Tofu served a lot of different ways, and listed on the menu as “tofu 3 ways”, “tofu 4 ways,” “tofu 5 ways,” and so on. I think Greg had “tofu 7 ways” or maybe it was 8. I went for fewer, thinking I wasn’t that hungry (having had a snack not much earlier). I chose the option that included, you guessed it, tofu on sticks:
So much for not being very hungry. I guess the fewer types of tofu in your order, the larger the portions.
Anyway, since being back in the USA I have stuck to only frozen treats on a stick. I am still finishing off last year’s watermelon-mint ice pops, and I recently made a large batch of fresh ones to take to the pool party on Labor Day. Just watermelon, mint, lime juice, and sugar.