Octopus Sushi/Tako Sushi: Not To Be Confused With Taco Sushi!

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Tako Sushi is quite an exciting meal. The first time I heard about it, I thought that the person meant taco sushi and I even went ahead to correct them on their spelling. It turns out that we were talking about two different things.

In my head, I thought that they were referring to Mexican food and I could already picture pairing tacos with sushi. But they were talking about octopus sushi which is an entirely different thing. So if you walk into a Mexican restaurant, don’t go asking for taco sushi when what you want is octopus sushi (tako sushi). Plus, I am not sure there is such a thing as taco sushi anyway but do not quote me on this.

Back to tako sushi, it is not something that you will find in all Japanese eateries either. Why is this?

What is Tako Sushi?

Well, tako sushi comes down to sushi made using octopus so it’s not something that you will come across in most restaurants. For one, not everyone is willing to try it out, and I have seen people turn their faces at the mention of this food. However, if you love octopus, there is no doubt that you would enjoy this meal which has proven to be one of those delicacies I cannot do without of late.

Also, if you are in the mood for something different, this is one way to go. And it might be that octopus sushi is what your palate has been yearning for all this while. Here are some tidbits as to this meal as well as ways in which you can prepare it for you and your loved ones.

Making Tako Sushi

If you have seen an octopus before, then you know that most of the meat is in the leg. For this reason, people making sushi will mainly use the tentacle to get the most out of it. Also, people do not use the flesh when raw as it tends to have a very bland taste that can make the meal quite dull.

The meat undergoes some cooking and where you want, you can use some seasonings in the process. I generally prefer using some flavors as it helps boost the taste. For people who do not like the smell of fish, tako sushi is an excellent option as the meat does not smell that fishy and it has a pleasant scent to it.

Preparing the octopus before cooking it is of the essence, and it determines how good the meat tastes in the end. You start by washing the octopus in a salt mixture. In doing this, you get rid of the slippery feel that can make eating the sushi difficult. Also, this process aids in exfoliating the skin, thus making it soft.

Once this takes place, you then start massaging the skin to help it open up and feel soft to the touch. You will then need a daikon radish (peeled) which you will then pound against the octopus. In this way, the meat will soak up the juices, and this will make the sushi feel soft after poaching.

Some people opt not to follow these directions, and they go ahead to prepare the sushi as it is. I have to admit that I too have tried to take the shortcut, but I would not advise anyone to do so. The octopus ends up tasting like rubber, and it has no flavor to it at all. Enjoying the meal becomes a task, and it is better to adhere to the preparation procedures to avoid wasting a great piece of meat.

However, if you fail to adhere to the preparation steps, you can always salvage the meal in a few ways. You can poach the meat together with some dry soybeans. The beans will work to soften the flesh, and it will thus not be rubber-like. Unfortunately, the soybeans can only do so much, and they will have little effect as to the taste of the purple octopus sushi, which will still be bland in the end.

Poaching of the octopus takes place under low heat which allows it to cook evenly and this process takes a while. The more time you use in the poaching, the more you can enjoy the sweet scent from the octopus. It’s not like what you would get from other types of fish, regarding intensity, but it’s an aroma that will whet your appetite long before the meal is ready.

As for using tako sushi in nigiri, this is possible.

There are those who opt to use other types of fish owing to the ease in connection to the rice. Also, tako sushi tends to be flat and stiff, and many people compare its appearance to that of squid. However, that is not to say that you cannot use octopus sushi for the same. With a few techniques in tow such as tying the sushi to the rice using a strip of nori, you should be able to enjoy some good octopus nigiri.

There are other ways in which you can serve octopus, other than as sushi, and sashimi is one such great option. For you to do this, you need to slice the leg thinly. The reason behind this is that the meat is quite chewy and tough and big pieces would prove challenging to enjoy. When served as sashimi, you can enjoy the flesh when raw.

You could also opt to use the tentacles in a roll or as gunkanmaki. Their crunchy texture is quite appealing, and it is one of the reasons that people use them for this.

Fun Facts about Octopi

People who catch octopi look to them as winter fish. This notion may have you thinking that it is because they are easy to find during the cold months, but this is not the case. The term comes from their attraction to white hues. If you plan on catching octopi, you would need whitebait. You could also opt to use small jars in the water, and given how much octopi love hiding in tiny holes, they would eventually get in the pots.

Preparing Tako Sushi – The recipe

In the previous section, I stressed a lot on the need to adequately prepare the flesh before cooking it as this affects its taste. In this part, we will cover how you can prepare the meat in a few simple steps that will make all the difference.

First things first, do your best to get the fresh octopus. I know that this may prove hard and you may end up getting octopus that is not all that fresh. However, where you can, go for fresh meat as this will have much better results.

To make the sushi, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Five pounds of frozen octopus
  • Two ounces of sea salt
  • Japanese Kelp
  • Japanese radish
  • A gallon of Water

As you can see, you don’t need much to get it right, and it is something you can achieve with what you have in your cabinet if you’re into Asian cuisine.

Directions

Start by pouring the water into a pot before adding the kelp and the salt. Turn on the heat to a high and bring the water to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, you can lower the heat as you work on the meat. Place the octopus in cold water where it can thaw and once it is ready, proceed to drain the water.

Next, proceed to knead the meat using the chopped radish in combination with some sea salt. In the process, you will note that the slime will lessen and the skin will begin to tighten as you continue working in the salt. It is essential to check if there are any remaining viscera in the head. You can do this by turning the head inside out. If you find anything, be sure to remove it before returning the head to its original shape.

Turn up the heat on the stove such that the water boils vigorously. Get hold of a stiff fork and pierce the octopus such that it clings to the fork. Next, dunk the octopus into the boiling water many times. Once the tentacles begin to curl up, you can lower the heat to a medium. Place the octopus in this boiling water and let it sit in the pot for about ten minutes.

At this point, you can cover the pan and turn off the heat.

Let the octopus remain in the water as it cools. This process should take about an hour. Once it feels cold to the touch, you can now move the pot into the fridge where the cooling will continue. Some people do this for a few hours while others opt to do it overnight. I prefer an overnight cooling process. The slower the cooling takes place, the tenderer the meat becomes.

Next, remove the octopus from the water and allow it to dry for a while. You can now slice it and serve it as you wish.

You may find that some parts are not all that edible and it is okay to get rid of them. For starters, the skin around the head tends to be quite firm and may be hard to bite. You can get rid of it alongside the skin under the top of the tentacles.

Sushi Secrets You Need to Know

If you ever walk into a sushi restaurant that serves cooked octopus sushi, it will not take you much time to identify the tako sushi. For one, it boasts of a rich purple hue that is quite appealing. Also, there are the suction cups that will instantly let you know that tako is on the menu tonight. But you do not have to wait until you walk into an eatery to enjoy this meal as I am about to show you how you can prepare the meal from scratch.

Before we get into how to cut up the octopus and how to make nigiri, I will take you through an educational thing I came upon during my research.

I love eating octopus, but I also do believe in the protection of our ecosystems. Of late, there have been reports that many sushi providers get their fish from companies which do not comply with the fishing laws. There are many people out there who use trawling as a means of fishing, and this ultimately affects ocean habitats, which means that fish get endangered.

Studies show that octopi are part of the fast decreasing populations across the globe owing to such fishing mechanisms. I know that it is hard to tell where the fish came from but where you can, it would be great if you could trace the origin.

Take Spain as an example. They use the jars I earlier talked about, and this means that they only fish the old octopi without disturbing ocean habitats. I tend to pay close attention to where I get my octopi and where you can, I hope that you can do the same.

How to make Octopus Nigiri

Once you get an octopus from a reputable source, you can now proceed to get the following:

  • A cutting board
  • A sharp knife

You will find that in most cases, you will have to buy the entire octopus. In such a case, you would need to cut the tentacles. However, if you were to get one tentacle, you are one step closer to making nigiri.

Cutting octopus for nigiri is quite similar to the process that you would use to cut another fish for the same. The trick lies in using a standard angle. You should note that the width of the tentacle will vary as you move along it and for this reason; you will need to position your knife to get a similar cut.

Start by angling your knife at the end which was previously attached to the octopus. As you make an initial cut, ensure that you do so at an angle between thirty and forty-five degrees.

Whatever degree you use will be the same for the entire process.

Now, place the tentacle such that it lies in a vertical position, with the narrow end facing you. Some people prefer placing the tentacle diagonally. There is no wrong way to set it, and it all depends on what positioning you find works best for you.

Place your hand over the top of the tentacle and using your fingers, guide the knife as per the chosen angle. As you cut through the flesh, ensure that you do so starting from the blade and ending with the tip. In this way, you can have a clear cut each time. Continue doing this as you adjust the octopus to make cutting easy. Once you achieve your desired amount of slices, you can quit cutting and store the remaining tentacle for a future date.

For other types of fish, the preparation would end at this point, but this is not so for octopus sushi. You will need to tenderize the meat before you start serving it unless you want your guests to chew on rubber. You can use these slices to make nigiri or sashimi. I will show you how to make nigiri in a few, but before that, let me take you through some of the common questions I come across regarding the use of these slices.

Interesting Facts

You might finish cutting up the fish only to realize that some of the slices are not all that appealing. If you’re wondering whether you should toss them or use them, here is a fun idea to help you out.

You see, with every fish you cut, the chances of having some scraps are always high. You can use the scraps to make some lovely nigiri boats and that way; you do not have to waste any of the meat. Take all the pieces and wrap them in something tantalizing and don’t get shocked when people reach for these first before consuming the nigiri sushi.

If you have been watching your weight and are wondering how indulging in this meal will affect your fitness goals, well, you are about to consume at least 41 milligrams of cholesterol with every three ounces of this delicacy. I know that this rate is well above average, but there is some good news.

In the same serving, you also get to take in lots of iron, amounting to a quarter of what you need daily. So if you down twelve ounces of nigiri, you are good for the day.

Do not tell your doctor I said that!

I kept talking about tentacles when demonstrating how to make tako sushi to one of my friends. As they learned the preparation steps, I also got to learn that what I refer to as tentacles is arms. Yes, octopi have arms and not tentacles. I know this and so do you now. However, I will stick to tentacles for the entirety of this article.

Now, here is a funny fact. Do you know what makes it so hard for people to catch octopi? Well, it turns out that they are quite smart and that they are problem-solvers. You didn’t see that coming; did you? What’s more, they have three hearts. Well, at least most of them do.

For last, I saved the best. There is this method of eating octopi that many people have frowned upon, owing to how terrible it looks and must feel for the poor octopus. You start by prodding the octopus when alive so that it can hold onto a skewer. Once it does this, you direct the skewer far into your throat and slide out the skewer so that you can swallow the octopus when alive. The octopus falls into the stomach and gets consumed by the acids therein.

This technique does not always work, and there have been cases where the octopus holds onto the esophagus, thus leading to suffocation and ultimately death. For this reason, I urge you not to try this at home as it could quickly go wrong.

Octopus Nigiri Sushi Recipe

Nigiri sushi has been around for quite a while. This traditional meal comprises fresh fish draped over seasoned sushi rice. You can also make it using vegetables, and it would be just as good. It works great as a snack or for dinner parties where you are dying to impress people with your skills.

To make this, you will need:

  • Rice
  • Nori
  • Boiled and Brined octopus
  • Plastic wrap

Directions

You can choose to do this in two ways. In the first method, all you need to do is to place the octopus on a rice ball, and you can serve this to your guests. It is a simple way to serve tako sushi. Then there is the one I love. I prefer using a seaweed belt over the sushi to bring out the flavors. Also, this move makes the sushi all the more appealing, and people cannot help but reach for more servings until the plate is empty.

And that warms my heart.

For you to make the belt, take the nori and slice it into small strips. The thinner the pieces are, the more of the same that you can use to make the sushi pop. Start by wetting one side of the belt before wrapping the rice ball and the octopus. Ensure that the wet tip is at the bottom before serving the sushi.

Another way you can make your sushi stand out is by using some wasabi paste and soy sauce which you can use as a dip. You can try out other toppings and flavors to see what works best for you before deciding what you will use when it comes to preparing octopus roll dinners that people will not forget. While doing so, you can try out baby octopus sushi and see how that works out.

I sure do hope that you enjoyed my octopus sushi recipe. Thank you!

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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