Cost: 110 yen
Found At: Yamadai
I once listened to a great courses lecture on the history of food and learned significantly less than I should have. There were a lot of names and empires and discussions of roux – whatever that is. The only useful bit of information that my memory grabbed from the deluge was that, in comparison to the food cultures of Africa and Asia, European culture falls far short in terms of texture. Gooey and slimy are just not a regular part of our cuisine – save for a few odd gumbos and the occasional aspic.
Considering all that, I feel quite proud that I’ve adjusted so well to gooey foods, despite my sociocultural limitations. Slimy still gives me a fair bit of trouble, but I have gooey very much in-hand. And as with most of the gateway foods in my life, it was sugar that helped win get over that first texture hurdle – there’s nothing like a deep-fried and liberally sweetened sesame ball to win someone over to the mochi dark side. But this was my first attempt at savory gooey foods. And I will admit it: I’m a fan. This Isobe mochi consists of two, flat mochi discs on a stick, that have then been marinated in a soy-based based sauce, lightly fried, and then topped with a little nori seaweed for good measure. It took my brain a few minutes to adjust to the initial saltiness, but after a few bites, I was satisfied that it was actually palatable. In fact, the whole experience was a fantastic juxtaposition between sweet pounded rice and savory marinade – the flavors fighting for control of my taste buds while I enjoyed the conflict. And I don’t know if it was because it was savory, or if it was in the shish-kebab section, or if there is just a deceptive amount of pounded rice snuck in those two small discs, but by the time I polished off the last of it, I was actually rather full.