I received some beautiful madako tako from my friends at Honolulu Fish Company recently.
Madako tako is octopus that has already been cleaned and cooked. I have cooked octopus from the raw state on numerous occasions, but since I discovered this product I have never gone back.
Octopus can be a hard sell in the Memphis market. I usually reserve it for when I have a cooking class or a special dinner when I have a captive audience and they have to eat it. It gives me the opportunity to talk about the differences in perception that different cultures have about textures in food. Americans probably have more hangups about the texture of foods than any other culture in the world. How many times have you heard someone say “I just don’t eat (fill in the blank). It’s a texture thing.”?
Admittedly, octopus does have a texture issue. It is chewy. In our culture “chewy” has negative connotations. As a chef, the way you deal with dense or tough or chewy items is through a long, low-temperature braising or smoking. Or through creative cutting, i.e. thinly slicing or slicing across the grain.
Octopus can be braised into a state of tenderness. But for me, and many other fans of octopus, part of the enjoyment is the texture. You do have to spend some time masticating. And I happen to be a big fan of mastication.
Here is a recipe that I picked up from my friend Al “Tako Man” Alboro when I was living in Hawaii.
- 1 pound cooked octopus
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 bunch green onions, green part only, chopped
- 3 ounces toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- Hawaiian red salt or sea salt, to taste
- juice of one lemon
Slice the octopus legs crosswise into thin rounds. Toss together with the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Allow to marinate for several hours before serving