One of my favorite ingredients to have when I eat sushi is Tako–otherwise known as octopus. I love the chewy texture and sweet light flavor of the Tako, and it is fun to see the portions of suction cups on thinly-sliced octopus tentacles or legs. I always include Tako in my Kids’ Sushi Classes (and often in my Adult Sushi Parties, too), for a couple of reasons. First, I never use raw fish in my Kid’s Sushi class, or any kids’ class for that matter. The Tako has been poached, which means that it has been cooked gently in seasoned liquid with a little bit of acidity added. This is a necessary step to make it tender enough to not become a long afternoon’s or evening’s chew. Second, I love the “Ooooh, Yuck” factor. Kids’ reactions are always fun, and having Tako gives them a good answer to the question of what the strangest and/or most gross thing they have ever eaten is. And third, it is usually readily available in Asian grocery store freezers.
Another way I enjoy octopus is grilled. Small individual octopi can also be found in the frozen food section of Asian grocery stores but I prefer a larger octopus, plate-sized, which is harder to find. My introduction to grilled octopus came at a Greek restaurant in Los Angeles. It has been over a decade, but I remember sitting in that quaint restaurant and placing my order for the Grilled Octopus. I was with my wife-to-be and my future brother-in-law Karl, and I think he thought I was a bit nuts. She wasn’t surprised, and I think she may have even seen it on the menu first. After a round of Ouzo, the steaming hot, beautifully-charred octopus appeared on a platter served with oregano, sea salt and lemon. There was a side of rice and a nice crisp salad. At the first bite, I must say it did not suck. (After all, it was no longer living.)
I recently found a local source for octopus here in Madison, WI. I think that during one of next spring warm spells, when I get back from my teaching trip to DC, I will thaw the octopus, braise it in a fish stock doused with Ouzo and oregano and then grill it to perfection. I am sure it will not be a family dinner.
I can’t talk about octopus that sucks without mentioning a video that a friend of mine posted on Facebook. It is actually of a squid, but it’s fascinating and truly brings a new meaning to what I call Diner Participation. This should actually be called Dinner Participation. And yes, I would try this given the chance.