UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL
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This was originally supposed to read "Octopus, Shrimp Avocado Salad with Kewpie-Wasabi Dressing," but the octopus part did not happen. After reading a recent string of octopus posts on Umamimart including Tokyo JUNKtion: Corpse Candy, ¡Viva España!, Umamiventure #26: San Pedro Fish Market (LA), ReCPY: Best Octopus(sy) in NYC and Raw Octopus from Tsukiji Market I executed a complete impulse buy at the local Mexican seafood market near my house. I was especially determined to recreate the salad that Yamahomo makes in his Octopus(sy) post.

The octopus I bought was a one-pounder and I was really confident that I could handle it despite the fact that I had never prepared an octopus in my life. Boy, was I in for a surprise...

When I got home, I reread Yamahomo's post and it cleared up my memory (shabby), and I realized this was going to be much harder than I expected. I proceeded to Youtube some videos on how to prepare octopus and almost barfed a little several times (live octopus preparation in particular).

The more and more I became better acquainted with these on-screen octopi, the more I feared looking into my refrigerator to pull my little guy out of his plastic bag (even though he was long dead).

I eventually did get him out of the bag, convincing myself that life is worth living for its risks and challenges.

Even so, I was thoroughly disgusted and thought about "freezing him for later" twice.

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I couldn't bear the thought of turning its head "inside out like a sock" as one online source suggested, so I decided I'd just dump him whole, into the pot with 1 cup of sake, water, half a lemon, about an inch of ginger and a wine bottle cork.

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I was really trying to suspend my disgust at this point, and quickly closed the pot with its lid.

Half an hour and a really pungently stinky (if the ocean had an armpit it would probably smell like this) apartment later, I uncovered the lid and was semi-pleasantly surprised. PINK!

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Pink is one of the less intimidating colors on the tonal-spectrum, so I chilled out a bit.

After cooling him down to room temperature in the liquid, I "fished" him out and placed him on my cutting board. His legs curled outward over and around his head.

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One-by-one, I hacked each leg off. In fear of finding myself face-to-face with this creature, I kept the head parallel to the board. When all eight legs were chopped off, I asked my husband to throw the head out.

But to feed my terror, he stood it up and took photos of it.

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TRAUMA.

At this point I had lost my appetite so thoroughly (and quite possibly forever for octopus) that I decided he will NOT be making it into tonight's salad.

I think it's the baggy eyes that made my stomach turn.

To my credit, my husband ate two legs and said they were quite good. I am just so disgusted at this point with octopus that I've placed the remaining legs in a tupperware - and I am sure that I will not be snacking on those.

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And that's the prelude to the actual recipe for this week's post, Shrimp Avocado Salad with Kewpie-Wasabi Dressing.

Salad Ingredients:
2 avocados chopped into bite-sized pieces
10 shrimp, steamed and chopped into bite-sized pieces

Dressing:
2 tbsp kewpie mayo
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp salad oil
1 tsp wasabi
a pinch of sugar

This salad is heavily inspired by Yamahomo's salad, but I substituted wasabi for mustard and skipped the basil, cucumber and tomato, for a wafu touch.

The key here is to pick ripe but slightly firm avocados. I find that mexican supermarkets are excellent for this.

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Additionally, buy shrimps with heads whenever possible. Anything with a head still on it is going to taste a "whole" lot better. Deveining the shrimp is a bit of a pain, but when you eat the final product, you'll appreciate the effort that pays off in both flavor and presentation.

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Steam shrimp whenever possible. It will retain flavor better than boiling. I steamed my shrimp after deveining and but before removing the heads.

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I took this salad to a potluck dinner and I was pleased to see it was a hit. I was also very pleased that I made the decision not to add the octopus in there.

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Column: Japanify
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13 comments

  • Yamahomo – Okay I’ll try the flash frozen types. But this ordeal might have turned me off from octopus for good.

    Craig – Yeah, horrifying is a good word for this fiasco.

    yoko on

  • I’m not that much of a fan of octopus in the first place, so that whole montage looked pretty horrifying.

    Craig on

  • octopus head looks like a very thick condom. I don’t know why it smelled so strong with sea arm pit.. If you can find ones at Italian market instead of Mexican, they have “flash” frozen ones and don’t smell at all.

    Yamahomo on

  • this is exactly why I do not eat octopus, did someone say “suction cups?!” no thank you very much.

    tomo on

  • this post has inspired me to never want to cook a whole octopus. i have trouble even with whole shrimp. i always need someone to remove the head out of sight from me before i’ll eat it.

    wen on

  • Anders – Wow, a 10 kg octopus. Nightmare. It probably wouldn’t die by a good baseball bat beating. I’d need an AK-47.

    Craig – I can’t really say if the cork worked but it’s supposed to tenderize the meat. Cork supposedly has natural enzimes in the wood that brakes down connective tissue.

    yoko on

  • Also, why did you put a cork in the cooking liquid?

    Craig on

  • Maybe the octopus wasn’t big enough? Small ambitions, small payouts bla bla bla.
    You should’ve gotten an 8-armed 10 kg pink monster, killed it off with your baseball bat and boiled it in your bathtub – always go for the gold!

    Anders on

  • Violent Hacking. I felt this too.

    kayoko on

  • OH. MY. GOD. This is so disgusting. First of all, the uncooked octopus in the pot looks like an embryonic specimen preserved in a science lab – I can’t believe you touched that thing. I can clearly see that as you went further into the process, you felt more and more animosity towards “the thing.” Your fury is evident in what looks like the final act – the violent hacking of the boiled octopus to pieces.
    Scrolling down from your documentation of the massacre to the next photo of the half avocado was such a visual relief. I went like, “Ahhhh…” and calmed down.

    worm on

  • I grew up eating octopus. I had a friend who owned a charter fishing boat. One day he showed up at my door with a huge, freshly-caught, dripping wet octopus. It was amazing. It immediately went into the pot. I ate it thinly sliced with a bit of soy dipping sauce. Delicious.

    I suggest you start with baby octopus. They’re small so they should be less intimidating to a newbie plus they cook more quickly.

    I also have no qualms about throwing live crabs, crawfish, and lobster into boiling brine. I catch and clean my own fish, shuck my own oysters and clams.

    Don’t give up!

    Chieko Ann on

  • Thanks Aelia. I am still haunted, to this day, by the image of the octopus, all baggy-eyed and webbed.

    yoko on

  • I am impressed that you actually got as far as hacking at that octopus. I think I’d have quit long before then.

    Aelia on

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