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Foodie in training. Currently focusing on my senior year curriculum, so there have not been recent posts. Please peruse previous posts for recommendations!

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Love Balls Bus

There's something about the East Side Drive-In that makes me want to try new food. The last three times I visited, I went for a specific cuisine and ended up getting something completely different, like when I went in for an egg sandwich and came out with chicken souvlaki. This time it was breakfast tacos for love balls.
Takoyaki with kewpie mayo, powdered seaweed, bonito flakes & "Japanese sauce"
Love Balls, is a food truck bus that brings Japanese street food to East Austin. Their specialty and namesake are the Love Balls. The sign outside the bus describes them as a savory fried pancake balls, but I think it's a slightly more comparable to the savoriness of a hushpuppy. A cornmeal-less hushpuppy sometimes filled with octopus.

I decided to try the Love Special, an order of eight Takoyaki and one large yaki-onigiri, for only $7 or $8.  I braved the Takoyaki at 11 a.m. because I knew it was the big menu item and I felt like it was just necessary that I try these crazy looking things, and the smell coming from the trailer was delicious. 

Another small part of my hankering to try this bus out was that Bizarre Food's host, Andrew Zimmern, visited the truck back in November
Photo source: @AndrewZimmern
You can read more here about the places around Austin he dubbed bizarre enough for his show. Still no word on when the show will air.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming, THE FOOD. 

So, what is Takoyaki? It's the savory pancake ball/hushpuppy filled with octopus ("Look the suction things are still on them!" my pizza-eating friend said in shock), pickled ginger and green onions. The octopus was tender and not too chewy- I'm curious where they import it from as I usually avoid any bargain priced seafood in central Texas. What really made the meal were the toppings: takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayo, aonori and bonito flakes. 

I'll admit I had a very small inkling of an idea what all of these things were, but after a little digging: Takoyaki sauce is similar to the ketchup-Worcestershire sauce you may be familiar with, but with sake and other Japanese spices added. Kewpie mayo is a popular mayonnaise in Japan and the only difference between it and regular mayo it's that it's a little creamier and made with rice vinegar. Aonori and bonito flakes is dried green seaweed and thin mackerel fillet. 

All together it is one of the most unique, yet tasty dishes I've ever tried.

The special also came with garlic yaki-onigiri aka rice balls grilled with garlic soy sauce (YES) and wrapped in seaweed. It looked like a weird rice sandwich. It was good, but I just ate the rice from the outside that had all of the garlic soy sauce-y goodness. 

My friend tried the Caprese Love Balls which are good for vegetarians or someone looking for a slightly more familiar dish, but the cheese in combination with the deep fried batter got pretty heavy for me. The tomatoes were SO good though.
Caprese Love Balls with preserved tomatoes and kewpie mayo-basil pesto combo
I asked the chef how well the love balls would hold up in the fridge, but he didn't really recommend bringing them home. Not that they would go bad, he said, but that they'd get soggy and lose their distinct flavor. Of course I didn't want all of that octopus to go bad, so I just at the good stuff from the middle and tossed the last two fried shells (don't yell at me).

If you try out Love Balls, let me know which dish you try and what you think! I really want someone to try the Texas Takoyaki Roulette challenge. Your choice of the Takoyaki or The Veg. Seven balls are served, but one is filled with a "ghost pepper laced habanero." The 'winner' gets a free bottle of water. It sounds like sick joke challenge for the people working the truck on a slow day, but definitely something I'd love to witness.

Love Balls is located in the East Side Drive-In off East Sixth & San Marcos. Go try some balls!