Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Octopus with Sesame Dressing

The first time I remember octopus on the table was at my grandmother's house on New Year's Day when I was a little girl.

I knew my friends at school would say, 'EEEEWWwwww--OCTOPUS???!!!'

I could almost hear it in my ear while looking at it on the table.

At the same time, I could hear my mother's voice, the kind, gentle, sweet mother's voice saying, 'We're Japanese. We eat octopus, it's good.'

But also the stern mother's voice saying, 'EAT IT!'

I bought a small piece of octopus at Marukai Market the other day.

My family loves it.

I have a bit of a fascination with the tentacles.

More about that later.

This octopus is cooked--all you have to do when you buy it is--rinse it and slice it.

Here are the ingredients for the sesame miso sauce:

1 tablespoon each of sugar, miso, mirin, sake and toasted sesame seeds.

I like the Maru-Hi brand miso, the one from Hawaii.

There's lots of other brands, you'll have to try several to find a favorite, that's what I did.

I tend to like the shiro miso.

Add 1 tablespoon miso and 1 tablespoon sugar.

Then add 1 tablespoon each of sake and mirin.

Grind 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds in a suribachi.

A coffee grinder works well, so does the Magic Bullet.

Add the ground sesame seeds and mix all ingredients until smooth.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

This is the package of tako I bought at Marukai.

Tako is Japanese for octopus.

Slice the tako into bite-sized pieces.

My husband eats it with rice.

My dad eats it with sake.

Serve with sesame miso dressing on the side for dipping.



When I was a little girl, our family went clamming.

We went to a secret spot along the Orange County coast, gaining access through one of my dad's friends.

It seemed like a perfect day, sunny and cool at the seashore, the whole family piling out of our station wagon, buckets in-hand.

In that area of tide pools, we would flip over the rocks and dig into the sand with our hands to get the clams.

That's when I had an encounter with an octopus.

I put my hand into the tide pool to flip a big rock, and an octopus jumped onto my hand and wrapped its tentacles around it!

It was a small one, I'm sure, but it felt like the BIG tentacles coming out of the sea in The Little Mermaid.

I frantically shook my hand violently to try and dislodge the octopus, and after what seemed like hours but was most likely seconds, the octopus let it's suction cups go and went flying in a big arc--landing in another tide pool somewhere that was, in my opinion, still too close for comfort.

I ran to tell my dad what happened and couldn't wait to be comforted because of this traumatic experience.


My dad is not that kind of Dad.


I still shudder a bit with the remembrance of those suction cups stuck to my hand and the tentacles wrapped around my wrist.

I wish I had some photos, but I don't.

I was about this age.

This picture was taken at one of the Community Center picnics.

My little sister and I are dressed for Japanese dancing.

Years later, when I was in college taking a Children's Literature class, we read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.

It's the story of a lone girl, Wonapalei (you wouldn't call her Karana, because that's her secret name, right?) stranded on the coast, and what she does to survive.

One of the things she eats is an octopus that she finds at an unusually low tide (if my memory serves me correctly).

An octopus!

She describes how it tastes and how good it is.


Hope you're enjoying your day!


You can buy an octopus arm, already cooked at a Japanese market such as Marukai or Nijiya.

Slice it in about 1/4 inch slices.

Sesame-Miso Sauce
1 tablespoon each:
toasted white sesame seeds

Grind sesame seeds in a japanese suribachi or a spice grinder until most of the sesame seeds are pulverized. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until evenly combined. 

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve over octopus slices.


  1. LOL, having octopus for dinner reminds me of a story a friend told me. When he and his sisters were little his mom asked them what they wanted for dinner. Tacos! they said. Really? Yes! Okay, she said. And guess what she made for dinner...yup, tako!

  2. @RobbieThat's funny, Robbie! Was the Mom from Japan?