Russian Roulette

My favorite food in Japan is probably たこ焼き (takoyaki). Takoyaki is a piece of octopus inside of a delicious ball of batter, usually topped with お好みソース (okonomi sauce) and Japanese mayonnaise (which is far better than its western counterpart). And though that might sound a bit strange it’s truly delicious.

Actually, earlier in the year, when a girl living in my dorm asked which kind of food I like best, I answered takoyaki. She then taught me to make it since she had a takoyaki maker, which is basically a griddle with small craters all over it. You first pour the batter in it, then when it starts to cook you put the piece of octopus in the middle, and then using chopsticks you rotate it until it’s cooked all around. A few months after this a couple living in Japan invited some people over to eat takoyaki before they moved to America. When I expressed my enthusiasm for takoyaki they told me they were trying to get rid of everything and I inherited a takoyaki maker. I fully intend to drag it back to America with me and have this dish whenever I like.

Not only do I like takoyaki, but I enjoy spicy foods – something that is actually rather rare in Japan. So when my friends and I discovered “Russian Roulette Habanero Takoyaki” at one of the bars around here, we were intrigued.

Basically you order some takoyaki, and the idea is to put a habanero pepper in one of them so some unfortunate person gets it. A few months back we initially tried it and though neither I nor the two friends who ordered it with me were the lucky ones to get the pepper, we were told it wasn’t so bad. Being the brave souls we are we ordered a set of takoyaki in which 3 of 8 were filled with habanero.

This night wasn’t so bad. We ate the takoyaki with poker faces. The Japanese bartender who had made the takoyaki watched us in disbelief and went back to test his creation. He came back sweating and pouring himself milk. He discovered very quickly that foreigners, apparently, have a much higher tolerance for spicy foods. He assured us that next time he would make them hotter.

Last night we went again and, feeling quite confident in our spice thresholds, we ordered the takoyaki with 8 of 8 containing habaneros. The first tip off should have been the three bartenders smiling mischievously at one another. They sent the youngest one back to make us our takoyaki. He came back and set it in front of us with a smirk on his face.

They definitely delivered when they told us they were going to make it hotter. The first one set a fire in my mouth. I had to order a milk-based drink to wash the heat away. Slowly the pain faded into something tolerable. Since there were three of us that night, 5 pieces of hellfire takoyaki remained.

We all figured that our mouth had been numbed out by the first, so the second would be no problem. We realized this was our second mistake the moment we ate it. One of my friends went to the bathroom to wash out his mouth. The other promptly ordered something to wash it down with. I finished what I had ordered during the first round.

“You made it, why don’t you try it?” I asked the bartender. Either he was brave or he felt obligated since he was a worker there and that’s simply how Japanese workers roll – it doesn’t really matter which. It took seconds for him to start visibly sweating, and when he tried to pour himself a glass of water I told him, “That will make it worse. Try milk.”

This left one more takoyaki on the dish. With my mouth incredibly numb, I decided that for sure this time I wouldn’t feel anything. This was my third mistake. I drank two more glasses of milk and my hands were shaking. Don’t mess with habanero peppers. But at least it was my first satisfyingly spicy dish since being in Japan. (Wasabi doesn’t count; wasabi is more of a single blast of tears and sinus-clearing while things like habanero peppers linger for a while.)

The bartender who had made us the takoyaki laughed and told us one would be on the house since he’d put us through so much pain. My two friends opted for a glass of beer, but I instead chose a game of darts.

He still owes me, actually. We shook hands on it.

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~ by megumiwasframed on March 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “Russian Roulette”

  1. I love food, and I really enjoy reading your blog very much thank you for sharing this post. Feel free to check out our recipes.

    Delicious Coffee Rolls

  2. lol Connie, you still have a lot to learn about peppers eh? Well, at least you were wise enough to use milk, instead of water or carbonated soda.
    Tip: Use a lemon. Just lick the lemon with the affected part of your togue and that should make it better.
    I love spicy food. When we meet i’ll cook you some enchiladas or salsa or something like that

  3. […] When the wind picked up and the daytime warmth dwindled we ended up going to the same local bar that had previously served us habanero takoyaki. We hung out there until late into the night joking and playing […]

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