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Miso Hungry Podcast

Episode 7: Tako Time, and a giveaway!

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Today it’s tako time! (And we’re having a giveaway, so make sure to read the whole post!)

But… don’t get that confused with tacos. There are no tortillas to be seen around here.

tako not taco

When we say tako, we mean octopus.

Yum.

Tako is almost always cooked before eating; unlike many fish that are offered raw, octopus is cooked and brined before it is served as sushi. It’s rarely ever sold whole outside of Japan. (We want to know, have you ever seen a whole octopus for sale? If you happen to come into possession of one, here’s how to clean it.)

octopus

Unfortunately… octopus is not one of the more sustainable seafood options out there. Since Japan has a large octopus preparation industry, octopus from all over the world is exported into Japan, where it is prepared and frozen. Then it’s re-exported back to other countries where there is a demand for octopus in sushi.

What does this mean for you? It means that it’s really, really difficult to know where your octopus actually originated from… which is a big deal, because many countries do not have regulations in place for how they catch octopus, which means that it could potentially be very bad for the ocean.

However, it’s not all bad… if you can get tako that you know came from a Spanish fishery, most of their octopus is caught with pots (like little traps that they put in the ocean), which is much less disruptive than bottom trawling. (Bottom trawling involves dragging a net across the floor of the ocean… which is bad for the environment and catches all sorts of additional sea life that they aren’t aiming for.)

Morocco is starting to regulate their octopus fishing more, but it still may be a while before we can consider that to be a sustainable option.

Vietnam, Senegal, and Mauritania are all unregulated, so we don’t recommend eating any octopus from those countries’ fisheries, if you can help it.

In Hawaii, octopus is mostly caught by spearfishing or by lure-and-line, where a lure with many hidden hooks is used to snare octopuses when they pounce. There is very little bycatch associated with this technique. Plus on the bright side, octopuses are fast growing and produce numerous offspring. These traits, combined with a sustainable fishing method, make Hawaiian octopus a “Good Alternative.” The same goes for octopuses caught in the Gulf of California.

So assuming you can get a sustainable source for your octopus… how does one eat it?

tako sashimi

Since the octopus feeds on other sushi ingredients, like crab, lobster, and scallops, its diet makes it high in protein and gives it excellent flavor. Thus it’s quite delicious as sushi. It has a very firm/chewy texture, and only the tentacles are used for sushi. Larger octopuses have thicker tentacles which are easier to slice for sushi.

Before it’s made into sushi, octopus is boiled, which tenderizes and firms the flesh. Its gray skin turns burgundy, and its flesh whitens, so it’s also much more appetizing looking when cooked. The boiling is done slowly, over low heat, because rapid boiling toughens the meat. The cooked tentacles are then cut diagonally into thin 1/8-inch slices.

Octopuses are also sometimes eaten live… the tentacles chopped off of live octopus and eaten raw, while still moving. This is very dangerous, because the suckers can stick to your throat and you can choke to death if you don’t swallow correctly. We don’t recommend doing this.

takoyaki

Takoyaki (たこ焼き) literally translates to mean fried/grilled octopus. But really… they’re OCTOPUS BALLS!

takoyaki

They are ball-shaped dumpling made from a batter that’s like a savory pancake batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan, known as a takoyakiki (たこ焼き器). It’s a special pan, usually made from cast iron, with spherical indentations in it. Kind of like an aebleskiver pan.

aebleskiver pan

Takoyaki are typically filled with diced octopus, tempura “scraps” (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion, then brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, and sprinkled with aonori (fine seaweed flakes) and katsuobushi (shavings of dried bonito).

There’s actually a takoyaki museum in Osaka!

Even better, there’s a takoyaki song that Rachael and Allison are both addicted to:

(If you like the song, you can even download it on itunes!)

Another way to eat octopus is as Tako Su (tako no sunomono) which is an octopus salad. Sometimes this is served as an appetizer at Japanese restaurants, though it’s very easy to make yourself. It consists of thinly sliced octopus combined with thinly sliced cucumber, which is tossed in awase-zu, a dressing made from rice vinegar and sugar (sometimes soy sauce is added too).

baby octopuses

At matsuri (festivals) sometimes you see grilled tentacles or whole baby octopus on skewers.

Dried octopus is kind of like octopus jerky, except not as chewy as beef jerky (and fishier).

Who wants to try some Octopus Ice Cream (“tako aisu”)? Andrew Zimmern tasted it for one of his Japan episodes… and, well, you can see for yourself how much he liked it.

Then, of course, there’s the Octodog – a mini hotdog shaped like an octopus. Your kids will think you’re seriously cool if you make these for them.

On a non-tako note, we think you should visit FarmPlate.com – a nationwide listing of sustainable businesses in the US!

rice cube

We’re having a giveaway!

We need your help coming up with names for our cute little pink tako mascot.

tako mascot

You can win one of three Rice Cubes (generously donated to us by Rice Cube!)

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a suggestion for what we should name her.

We will pick three random winners (you don’t have to have our “favorite” entry to win… it will be entirely random.)

1 entry per person (but you can leave as many name suggestions as you’d like). You have until 11:59pm PST on Monday, February 27 to enter (that’s one week from today!) We’ll ship internationally, so anyone can enter!

rice cube

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  • Nami | Just One Cookbook Feb 20, 2012 at 8:36am
    Thank you for linking my Tako Su recipe. :-) I love tako, and takoyaki is my favorite too! I never realized that there is a cast iron takoyaki pan. I need to get that. I have electric takoyaki-ki, but I burnt a few area once and it always burns that spot. I remember the episode of Octopus Ice Cream by Andrew Zimmern. I am not sure if I would like that one though. lol. Thanks again!
  • Joann Lehmer Feb 20, 2012 at 2:40pm
    I love squid but have had octupus only once. I was at a Japanese friend's house for dinner. He said I was the only caucasian he knew that would eat steamed octopus. It was yummy. I also have a dear friend that has to stock her house with "Squi-erky" (squid jerky) when her Korean in-law visit. Love your podcasts. Fun and informative.
  • Kate @eatrecyclerepeat Feb 20, 2012 at 5:24pm
    Tako is one of my favorite things to eat in Japan! I can't wait to go home and listen to this tonight. As for a name...I'm not so good at thinking of cute names, but what about: ぐーぐーちゃん (guu guu chan or guu chan), which is the sound your stomach makes when you are hungry? That or ペコタコ (peko tako), but there is already the peko peko cookbook...
  • Zakka Life Feb 21, 2012 at 11:27am
    I would name her pinky chan. We love tacoyaki too. It's one of our favorite things to get when there is a festival.
  • kosamasako Feb 21, 2012 at 5:21pm
    I live in Montreal, Canada and I always can get Tako at one of the arabic grocery store. I named her Taco-chu (たこチュウ)
  • Mari-chan Feb 21, 2012 at 5:40pm
    I just loooove takoyaki ... i have yet to attempt it myself at home. Hmm, names. Not good at cute-sy names--- for some reason with the look in her eye, "totto-totto" tako-chan comes to mind :D
  • Kelsey Feb 23, 2012 at 5:38pm
    I think you should name her Taka. :)
  • Ngoc Feb 23, 2012 at 8:53pm
    Wish I could eat more octopus and squid. Love to just boil it, dip in a spicy fish sauce loaded with ginger, and eat it with rice. Can't imagine eating them live with their tentacles squirming about! Was looking up those takoyaki pans, so neat. They're similar to the ones for banh khot. My 3 year old suggests Squiggly for the little tako.
  • mike Feb 23, 2012 at 10:56pm
    Love them octo-fritters - great show again! I have a small electric takoyaki maker, but would rather have a cast iron one. We have a few restaurants here that make pretty decent takoyaki too! The sustainability problem with octopus is really that in the US we don't require the country of origin to be labeled for seafood, only the country where it was processed. Also those Korean videos of people choking down squirming pieces of tentacle are sick! It's the same issues as with fresh mochi, you MUST chew it well before trying to swallow, and the people are usually drinking! No I have not tried it (yet).
  • Cecily Feb 23, 2012 at 11:39pm
    Misotako - similar to your podcast name! Also I loved this post, thanks!
  • Dan Feb 24, 2012 at 2:07am
    I watched the video you posted of people eating live octopus and thought 'I could probably do that,' until you said it could kill you! I love squid, but I've never tried octopus. I would name her something simple like 'Kawaii' - I think it's pretty cute. Love the podcast!
  • A_Boleyn Feb 24, 2012 at 12:40pm
    I've only had octopus sushi a couple of times but your mascot is cute and I think you should call her "Opi". (Can you tell I'm bad at naming things ... our cat was named Muffy?) I hope to be a winner of one of your rice cubes as my nigiri making skills need to be worked on. :)
  • Lynn Sessler Feb 26, 2012 at 3:54pm
    The light pink color of the picture reminds me of the upcoming Cherry Blossom season that I get to enjoy this year as I come to Tokyo for a week in early April. There, I hope to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms again with old friends and of course, eat "たこやき " So, it made me think of some sort of combination name, for the season soon to come and the little "lady-like" octopus so I came up with the name さくらこ or in Kanji, 桜子.
  • Sharise Ruiz Feb 27, 2012 at 6:11am
    I like the name Niko. Thank you for all of your wonderful tips and all the beautiful pictures make me so hungry.
  • Danielle O'Brien Feb 27, 2012 at 10:27am
    Because she is a woman of the sea, how about Ama-chan? I just made onigri the other night with tuna/kewpie mayo & siracha. My 14 month old son gobbled them up! I am a hapa like Allison, my mom is full 2nd generation Japanese. I grew-up with football shaped onigri with ume in the middle, I guess my mom was a super lazy momma and didn't want to shape them into the mountain shape :) Love the podcast!
  • Kenny Feb 27, 2012 at 2:58pm
    A name I have always liked is Tomi, short for Tomiko. I had an aunt named Tomiko & I think she would have liked to have the same name as your tako mascot.
  • Noreen Feb 28, 2012 at 3:19am
    What about Takomi, like a twist on Takumi...meaning artisan, which seems to suit what you are doing--food and art!! Edible art is the best kind there is!! Lots of octopus here (Spain) so I'm going to try and hunt down ingredients for takoyaki...mmmmm............. ;)
  • GRETCHEN LOHNES Mar 7, 2012 at 6:45am
    This is my new favorite website and podcast!!!! Your posts are awesome!!!! and for the name...hum, first thing that popped into my head was Tonka and then Edie. lol my sons loved loved loved the man sushi!!!

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