Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Knuckle Sandwich - Hold the Bread

I've eaten duck tongues, frog legs, chicken feet, chopped livers and lacy tripe. I've nibbled on a whole guinea pig and accidentally sampled various guts and limbs, animal species unknown, in one particularly deep bowl of murky soup in Peru - which I swear were not listed on the menu. But knuckles? Knuckles I've never tried.

Correction. I had never tried. Until the other night. I might never have tried them if my lovely new friend, and coworker, Megumi hadn't translated the entire menu for me at a loud and smokey yakitori joint. Yakitori is basically chunks of meat grilled on skewers. Beer is a must, and you order skewer by skewer, nibbling on edamame or bacon wrapped asparagus while waiting for the next batch to arrive. It's like street food, without the street. The kitchen lives in the center of the small restaurant, completely surrounded by a counter where people pull up a stool and holler out their orders to the bustling cooks.

I absolutely loved this place. It was cramped, and a little grimy, with a friendly staff who was quick to slam down a fresh, cold beer after you'd drained your last. I am particularly fond of eating bit by bit, making the meal last all night if you'd like, and eating until you're just full enough.

So, back to the knuckles. They're not nearly as funky as you might suspect. If you'd please refer to the photo, they are smack dab in the middle, right there with the charred tips. I hate to say it, but they tasted like chicken! Really dry chicken and cartilage. I was not impressed. But the rest was quite tasty! From left to right we ate: octopus, chicken and scallions, knuckles and liver. I gobbled up a couple of intestines-on-a-stick, which I found to be surprisingly delicious. There was a chicken stick completely coated in salty, neon orange, fish eggs and some tender and flavorful chicken meatballs soaking up a slightly sweet sauce.

It was a blast of beast, a stark contrast to my nearly meat-free Japanese diet. All week long it's fish, noodles, vegetables, fruit, eggs, rice and tofu - but this particular Saturday night we feast on meat!