Tantalizing Tentacles

Little Tokyo

Sashimi, as an experience, is one that treads a fine line between good eating and amoebiasis.  People have eaten raw seafood for ages, but with all the talk of red tide and food poisoning, sashimi is a calculated risk.  Most would take raw fish, but I decided to push the limit a bit.  That’s right: octopus sashimi.

Last week, me and a couple of friends decided to chill out at Little Tokyo, which is a bunch of small Japanese restaurants just along Chino Roces (Pasong Tamo).  There was camphone paparazzi/photographer extraordinaire/pet society guru Fritz Tentativa, and everyone’s favorite blogging impresario-slash-virtuoso Winston Almendras.  Chilling meant salmon sashimi for Fritz and California maki for Winston, but for me it meant something more exotic.  Beer, of course, and octopus.

Not many people I know have had octopus before.  I guess that the sea critter alludes too much to the bizarre, the icky, and even the pornographic.  The octopus, a proud bounty of the sea, is a creature on the lower rungs here above ground, where tabloid stories and hentai are much more common than they are down below.  Unlike cuttlefish or squid, not a lot of octopus is sold on the market, making the animal a bit more exotic, and the dishes more of specialties than everyday fare.

I’ve had more than my own fair share of octopus before, and strangely enough, the animal has always been prepared a lot like squid.  Save for takoyaki, I guess the reason why most people and establishments I know prepare octopus like squid is because they share the same texture, physiology, and pretty much can be cooked the same way.  While sashimi-style squid pretty much feels and tastes like flavorless underwater slime, octopus is a bit different.  It has more body and volume than squid; traits that more than make up for the lack of a unique taste.

On its own, octopus sashimi is not very remarkable.  It’s an experience of texture more than taste, a lot like sharksfin or bird’s-nest.  It gave me the impression of a chewier version of squid with more bite, and an aftertaste that can only be described as octopus-sy.  Yet when dipped in light soy sauce, wasabi, chili flakes and eaten with a small amount of fresh daikon (plus beer to stimulate the taste buds), octopus sashimi really comes to its own.  It has an earthier flavor than squid, carries the taste of the sea better than tuna, and the way the animal is prepared makes it very easy to chew.

The slices were a bit thick, but one can deduce that the dish is not completely raw: there’s the shock factor, and then there’s a possible insurance claim.  I’m sure it was seared or steamed, but it still had the raw traces that could properly qualify the dish as sashimi. There was a lot of meat in the animal, too.  For a little under P300, not bad for a treat.  It’s not the taste, perhaps, but the idea of eating octopus that made this quite an interesting thing to eat.

Never mind the occasional thought of Japanese tentacle-themed erotica, and nanganak ng pugita tabloid stories that you may think of that gives your eating a much-needed pause.

If you have a weak stomach, I wouldn’t recommend eating this.  If you like chewy sea creatures and the “wild side” of eating, you’re definitely going to enjoy this.  Bon fucken appetit!

* – Photo courtesy of Winston Almendras (BatangYagit.com and PatayGutom.com)

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