FUN FACT FOR ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH: I have always found rather funny that the Japanese word for octopus is “tako”; an octopus taco with a Japanese seasoning, would then be a “Tako Taco”! My family does not find my playing with words funny at all (I must admit, after the 10th time using the term, even I feel a little like a nincompoop, LOL); I am shocked, though, that no restaurant has adopted the name yet, maybe I should trademark it …
Octopus tacos and tortas (Mexican sandwiches) have always been very popular at seafood stands inside mercados (markets), as well as cantinas (bars), where they may be enjoyed while tending to parched lips with a beer. The traditional seasonings are either “en su tinta” – in their own ink, or cooked then sautéed with onions and peppers, similar to fajitas. A couple of years ago, while visiting Mexico City, my dear friend Adriana treated me to dinner at “La Cervecería de Barrio”* (photo below, left), a chain of restaurants originally inspired by market seafood stands; in another post, I have featured a seared tuna tostada from that meal, but another interesting offering was an octopus taco, cooked fajita style (photo below, right):
A few days later, during the same trip, I was visiting my family in Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, and we had an outing to“El Zarandeado” restaurant (No. 3 810, La Lima, 80040 Culiacán Rosales, Sin., Mexico, photo below, left). I have posted about that meal, featuring a recipe of pescado zarandeado, the house specialty and namesake; I also mentioned an octopus taco as an appetizer, as well as their soy-sauce based condiment, similar to the Asian-inspired sauce that I featured in my previous post. This type of sauce has become a well accepted flavour in Mexican seafood dishes in recent decades; the octopus in the taco had been already seasoned with the house sauce, served with a bottle on the side, to add extra flavour, to taste (photo below, right):
Both renditions of octopus tacos were very tasty; I liked the peppers in the one in Mexico City, which had mild flavours that were well complemented by the spicy salsas, to inject some heat to the plate. The taco in Culiacán pleasantly surprised me with an Asian touch, from being seasoned with the house sauce; to this one, I simply added some shredded veggies and just a touch of salsa:
For my recipe at home, I took inspiration from both versions, adding seasoning with some of my Asian-inspired sauce, including a few green peppers, for an extra punch of flavour, and dressing the tacos with shredded cabbage, for some crunch.
Octopus Tacos – Tacos de pulpo
Ingredients (for six tacos)
½ lb (225 g) cooked octopus (see NOTE below)
½ large white onion; peeled and chopped
1 tbsp oil
Green peppers, sweet or spicy, to taste; washed and cut into strips, or whole if small
1 batch my Asian-Inspired Sauce (printable recipe above)
1 cup shredded red cabbage; washed and drained
2 limes; washed and cut in half
½ tsp salt, or to taste
6 corn tortillas; warm
Prepare cabbage: Place cabbage in a non-reactive bowl; sprinkle salt and the juice from half a lime (photo below, left). Mix well and reserve until serving time, allowing to rest for at least half an hour (photo below, right):
NOTE – About cooking octopus: My mom always rubbed raw octopus with salt (as many Japanese cooks do); she thought this helped to prevent peeling of the skin after boiling the octopus in water. According to Serious Eats, this and other stranger tricks (like placing a wine cork in the pot), are not necessary, and simply boiling for a long enough time (about an hour, or so, depending on quantities), then cooling down the octopus afterwards before slicing, will produce tender meat with intact skin. If you follow the link, you will also find instructions for pressure cooker and sous vide methods. In my region, it is difficult to find fresh octopus, so I bought a package of frozen, already cooked octopus:
Pat dry cooked octopus with a paper towel. Chop into small cubes and place in a bowl. When compared to the amount of chopped onion, aim for roughly equal volumes:
In a frying pan, warm up oil over medium heat; add onion and sauté until translucent, then incorporate cooked octopus (photo below, left). Continue cooking for a couple of minutes, then add about two tablespoons of Asian-inspired sauce (photo below, right):
Continue cooking and stirring, to coat with the sauce, then add peppers (I chose whole serrano peppers, photo below, left). Continue cooking and stirring, just a couple of extra minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated (photo below, right):
Adjust seasoning with salt, if needed. Scoop portions onto warm corn tortillas and serve with prepared cabbage, the rest of the Asian-inspired sauce, and limes cut into wedges:
I thought this was a delicious marriage of flavours and ingredients from the two different octopus tacos I had in Mexico; my husband loved them, and we ended up eating them all as a full meal.
* Sadly, the particular restaurant where I shared dinner with my friend did not bide through the pandemic, and is now closed permanently, but “La Cervecería de Barrio” is a chain and still operates several other restaurants in Mexico City and neighbouring areas.
I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #490, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.