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Smoked Tako 4 + 3 Ways

Smoked Tako (Hawaiian He’e Octopus), prepared 4 + 3 Ways

A Party with Style

Threesomes are a tantalizing fantasy that many of us have and perhaps experienced, as I already have. Foursomes and more, even better! But enough about my swinger party escapades. Ha-ha!

Today’s party theme is all about Smoked Tako, a.k.a. Hawaiian “He’e” Octopus with a Japanese name, flavoring it in four different marinades: Doggie sty… Oh wait, my bad, wrong party. lol. That would be: Hawaiian style, Big Island style, Misoyaki style, and finally Charsiu style; the latter of which I thought would be particularly interesting, in that I’ve never seen it done before with Tako.

Then I’ll use that to make Smoked Tako Poke Local Style and Creamy Asian style. Finally, I’ll make a Smoked Tako sandwich to the tune of the classic “BLT”, aptly renamed an “STLT”. All of which are depicted in the the splash montage at the top of this post.

This should be one smokin’ hot party!

Let’s warm-up the festivities and fun by doing a Japanese Tako Roll Call, Rap Replinger style…

Roll Call

Takoyaki? Hai! Yakitako? So! Takomine? So-So! Minetako? Hoi! Misoyaki? I-Sho! Nakatako? Oi! Takonaka? So! Okitako? Hai-hai! Takaoki? Yosh! Chisai Tako? Hai. (sigh). Takoyama, Yamatako, Takoshige, Shigetako, Takofune, Funetako, da’ Tako gotta’ go smoke now…

Two frozen Tako… a familiar thing to see in the freezer of those who have Tako hunters in the family

Ancient Aliens

So where do we begin, as well as you may ask? From da’ beginning! And we begin by defrosting the two Tako, caught right here on the windward side of Oahu by Diner E, who was so generous to share with me. It had been sitting in my freezer for several months now, so time to take it out to defrost so we can smoke da’ buggahz. I sped-up the defrosting time by putting the bag under slow-running tap water, where in about 45 minutes they were ready to roll…

Two Tako caught off Oahu’s Windward coast by Diner E. Approximate weight 1.35 pounds each.

Here I am holding them up so you can get a scale idea of their size, and thankfully my ever-shrinking waistline…

Pomai (5’9″ tall, 166 lbs.; 41 lbs. total loss since May ’12) holding up two Tako (approx. 1.35 lbs. ea.) about to be cleaned, marinaded and smoked. Photo taken 1.14.13 (click image for alternate angle)

At approximately 1.3 pounds each, these two Tako aren’t the biggest, yet big enough to catch. In fact, Diner E just caught a couple 3 pounders the other weekend that were so long, he had to raise his hands to hold them high enough without dragging on the ground.

Before I cut into it for cleaning, let’s get some “Area 51” Alien-like sci-fi shots….

Area 51 declassified photo: Research Sector: 5-AXR, Origin: Orion Nebula Cluster, Species ID: Wikijabba Octoxanos

Wikijabba Octoxenos – Mantle Maximus

Seriously, that must be the best part of making sci fi films: coming up with otherworldly sounding names for their characters, not to mention the artists who design them. That’d like totally be my dream job.

Speaking of alien-like, a 1.25 lb. Argentine Squid from New Zealand (makes sense, right?) was added to this “head ‘n tents” smoking party…

1.25 lb. Ika (Argentine Squid) from New Zealand and two 1.35 lb. Tako (Octopus) from Oahu

I must say, Cephalopods — which include Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish and the Nautilus — truly are some of the strangest looking, most alien-like creatures currently living on our planet. What’s funny is, being how smart they’re known to be, they probably view us humans as weird looking. Tako A telling Tako B, “Psst, Squidward, why does this strange vertical land creature only have two arms and two legs, when they’re supposed to have eight? And where’s their suckers? And why do they have hair on their head? They’re supposed to be bald!” LOL!

Area 51 classified photos released: Research Sector: 2-SAC, Origin: Omega Nebula Cluster, Species ID: Jedixx Decixanos

Like a virgin

Getting back to business with prepping the Tako, I must tell you first and foremost, that this is the very first time I’m smoking Tako, therefore this a learning process for me, as I’ll note along the way.

OK, now with more photos that may possibly gross you out, I removed the “guts” from the head by surgically cutting it open to remove it…

Tako (octopus) innards x 2, plus the top and bottom of the beak (mouth), those black “things” in front

Experienced Tako guys would simply turn the head inside out and rip the guts out by hand, but I was afraid if I did that as a “Tako Virgin” that I’d bust the ink sac, which wouldn’t be good, so took the surgical approach instead.

Diamond Magic

I then rubbed the tako’s skin vigorously all over with Hawaiian salt, which I’ve been told acts as an abrasive to remove the slime…

Tako getting a rub with Hawaiian salt to “deslime” it’

Rub-a-dub-dub, salty slime in the tub…

Tako getting a rub with Hawaiian salt to “deslime” it’

This is the Tako’s beak (mouth), which is rigidly sharp, and used to crush small crab shells and other bottom dwellers that Tako feed on…

Tako’s Beak (mouth)

I then rinsed the Tako repeatedly and thoroughly to what I thought was removing the salt. Turns out that wasn’t entirely the case.

I then drained as much rinsing water out as possible…

Hawaiian Tako, just pau “desliming” with Hawaiian Salt and cold running tap water

Honey, my back is sore

For the next crucial step, I tenderized the Tako by massaging it with E& J Original Extra Smooth Brandy for about 10 minutes…

My Tako about to get a massage with Brandy

I’ve heard and read about other types of alcohol being used for the task of tenderizing Tako, from massaging with Sake and Whiskey, to boiling it for a long time in beer. They also say freezing itself tenderizes the Tako, but I decided to add “Tako Tenderness Insurance” by giving it a Brandy massage, using that particular spirit, as I also want to use it for an upcoming Tasty Island demo’ on Steak Au Poivre, which I’ve been longing to do for quite some time now.

Oh, and don’t worry, I’m still predominantly pescetarian, however Steak Au Poivre will be yet another weekend indulgence worth posting about.

I thought of completely rinsing the Brandy off after the massage, but decided to let it stay just coated with it for added flavor, only dabbing the excess liquid off…

Dabbing off the excess liquid from the tenderizing massage with Brandy

Everyone to the Jacuzzi, stat

Now we’re ready to whip-up several styles of Tako marinades…

Clockwise from top left: Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water, Hawaiian Salt, Aloha Gold Premium Soy Sauce, Shinsyu-ichi Shiro Miso Paste, finger of Ginger and E&J Original Very Special Brandy (for tenderizing)

So again, today we’re going to do a Smoked Tako “Foursome”: Big Island style, Misoyaki style, Charsiu style and Hawaiian style.

Here’s the rundown on the marinade recipes:
Big Island style
1 cup shoyu
1/4 cup cane sugar (add more if you like ’em more sweet, up to you)
1 finger ginger, julienne
3 cloves garlic, minced
Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water to taste for heat (you gotta’ eyeball this one)

Combine in pot on medium-low heat until all ingredients are fully infused.

Misoyaki style (slightly modified recipe courtesy of Samdooby at the HawaiiSkinDivers.com forum)
1/3 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin
½ cup raw sugar
1 cup of fresh white miso
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 Tablespoons finely grated ginger
Squeeze of fresh Lemon

Combine in pot on medium-low heat until all ingredients are fully infused.

Hawaiian style
Hawaiian salt (eyeball ’em)
Hawaiian Chili Pepper water (eyeball ’em)

Sprinkle Hawaiian Salt on raw Tako and massage in a little, then drizzle on Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water to taste. Be very careful with in how much you use of each. This one takes experience.

Charsiu style
1 packet Hawaiian Pride Charsiu Sauce
(or your favorite brand, or homemade recipe)

Here’s the packet of Hawaiian Pride ready-to-use (already in liquid form) Charsiu sauce packet…

Hawaiian Pride Charsiu sauce about to go on a date with Mr. Tako

Here we have the prepared raw tako cut into segments to fit the marinade containers….

Raw Tako and Squid cut into segments for marinade session

Notice the one in the square container to the right is already in a marinade, as that’s the “Hawaiian style” version that didn’t get a massage with Brandy. Boo! lol All that’s in there is Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water and Hawaiian Salt.

Add the three other marinades…

Raw Tako gets marinaded (clockwise from top left): Charsiu style, Big Island style (Squid/Ika), Hawaiian style (in square container), Misoyaki style and Big Island style

They were tossed ‘n turned to coat each piece thoroughly, then covered tightly and refrigerated overnight. Note, after marinading overnight, I had planned to smoke it the next day after work, but couldn’t because I had to work overtime (pretty much the story of my life lately). So I popped them back in the freezer in the marinade containers until the following weekend when I had more free time.

Fast forward to this past holiday Monday, Martin Luther King Jr., Day, and here we have the marinaded Tako defrosted (again), all set-up and ready to hit the smoker…

Raw Tako all pau marinating and ready for the smoker (clockwise from top left): Charsiu style, Big Island style (Squid/Ika), Hawaiian style (in square container), Misoyaki style, Big Island style

Notice the marinade liquid level went down slightly? You know where that went: into the Tako meat. More on that later.

It’s get-tin’ hot in here

Now let’s set-up the 22″ Weber grill for smoking duty by first getting the dry Kiawe wood chunks burning, where here I used some newspaper, along with Peanut Oil, which has a lower flash point than your typical Canola or Vegetable Oil…

Kiawe (Mesquite) wood fire starting

Soak a separate batch of Kiawe in water, which will be the smoking wood…

Kiawe wood soaking in water for the smoke

Once the Kiawe kindling wood is fully burning, move it to one side on the very edge of the bottom grate, then set-up a heat shield like this…

22″ Weber Grill, with Kiawe kindling wood, smoking wood, makeshift heat shield and water pan

To the left in the Weber Grill, we have a pile of Kiawe wood (a.k.a. Mesquite) that’s already been started and is at its fully burning stage (the ashed-over black logs underneath), while on top of that are two pieces of unburnt Kiawe wood that’s been soaking in water for about an hour, which is done to create more smoke (on top of what smoke comes out of the kindling wood). Next to that is my “Podagee Heat Shield” which helps maximize the cooking surface inside the grill by blocking direct heat from hitting the side nearest the smoking pyre.

You’ll see what I’m talking about shortly. The heat shield is created by cutting the sides of a disposable tin serving pan as shown and placed at an angle to cover the hot burning Kiawe. The heat shield is held down by another serving pan filled with water, which not only adds weight, but also provides moisture in the smoking chamber. At least it does in theory to the latter.

Put on the cooking grate, and here’s how it looks, where you can see how the heat shield is effectively providing about 30% more cooking surface that otherwise wouldn’t have been available had it not been there due to the direct heat from the smoking pyre…

22″ Weber grill converted for smoking duty

Notice how the heat shield is angled to accommodate the cooking grate so that it rests properly on the kettle’s tabs. You don’t want a wobbly contraption when dealing with fire. Also notice I placed the cooking grate so that the opening on the side is over the burning Kiawe wood smoking pyre off to the left. This way I can keep adding more fire wood and smoking wood as needed, without needing to constantly lift-up the heavy meat-loaded cooking grate. Which you will indeed need to do over the 2-plus hour smoking session.

They got smoke. We got heat. Bring on the MEAT!

Left to right: Small squid (Ika) seasoned NOH Portuguese Sausage style (I’ll explain later), Argentine Squid Big Island style, Tako Hawaiian style, Tako Big Island style and Tako Charsiu style

Aaahhhhh…. ooooohhhhh…. aahhhhh. Looks like our Tako smoking party is in full swing! No pun intended, of course. lol

But wait, you can’t have all that Tako and no sausage. While I was at it smoking the Tako, I decided to try smoking some semi-homemade Portuguese Sausage at the same time, which here I’ve added some NOH brand seasoned “Hawaiian Style” Portuguese Sausage-seasoned ground pork, with one rolled-up like a giant doobie in tin foil, and the others stuffed in Aburage (deep-fried Tofu Packets)…

Let’s get this meat smoked (left to right, top to bottom row): Small Squid Portuguese Sausage style, Argentine Squid Big Island style, Tako Hawaiian style, Tako Misoyaki style, Tako Big Island style, Tako Charsiu style, NOH semi-homemade Portuguese Sausage (raw seasoned ground pork rolled-up in foil), NOH semi-homemade Portuguese Sausage stuffed Aburage

I figured the pork would be more resistant to overcooking than the Tako, so placed those nearest the heat. Also notice I positioned the Tako so that the thicker parts, or “thigh area” are faced towards the fire. What I should have done was chop off the really skinny tips and threw them on later, as those parts kinda’ overcooked, as expected. Ah minahz, next time.

Let’s get this meat smoked (left to right, top to bottom row): Small Squid Portuguese Sausage style, Argentine Squid Big Island style, Tako Hawaiian style, Tako Misoyaki style, Tako Big Island style, Tako Charsiu style, NOH semi-homemade Portuguese Sausage (raw seasoned ground pork rolled-up in foil), NOH semi-homemade Portuguese Sausage stuffed Aburage

What to do now? Cover it!…

Smoke it, baby. Make sure all vents are open

Yes, cover it, then in no time the smoke will overcome the chamber and begin to billow out the top vent.

Here’s a video clip of Yours Truly explaining what’s going on here…

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’,  into the future

Now what? Set the timer for 2 hours, then go grab a cold one my friend and let’s chat…

So, about going to swinger parties, it’s quite exciting to… oh, oops, never mind. That’s an inappropriate subject for this blog. Keepin’ it “G” folks, keepin’ it “G”! lol

Anyway, Diner E and buddy Andy went Tako diving again the other weekend, where he said it was his (Diner E’s) “On” day, and Andy’s “Off” day. It often goes like that, with either one getting most of the luck catching Tako. Diner E said he came home with 4 smaller Tako and 2 massive ones; the latter of which he caught just as he was making his way back to shore. He estimates about 10 lbs. total in Tako, maybe more than that. Andy nevah come back wit’ nottin’ this time. Such is the life of Tako Diving. He’ll post photos and dishes he made with it later in a future Diner E Tasty Island Guest Blogger Post.

Back to business, so what happened on this particular smoking session was, I took a nap (didn’t really drink a Blue Moon, which would have been ideal), and when I woke up about an hour later into the smoking session, found that the Kiawe smoking and kindling wood had all but died out, and the temperature inside the smoking chamber was hovering in the 150ºF range, which is way too low.

No problemo, as thankfully the kindling wood still had enough “mojo” to get more fresh, dry Kiawe wood burning, where in about 30 minutes, the smoking chamber reached 190ºF, then danced up and down, as it did throughout the smoking session, between 190 to about 220ºF. That’s about where you want it for whatever meat you’re smoking in the “low ‘n slow” style.

When I say the kindling wood had enough “mojo”, what I mean by that, is when you take the cover off, it flames-up again thanks to the added oxygen. Let me just say this: smoking (meat that is) is a dynamic endeavor. It’s as much art as it is science. You have to know your wood, as well as your flame. Kinda’ like other “things” in life. LOL!

So I added more dry Kiawe wood for the fire and another chunk of wet Kiawe for more smoke and let her smoke for another 2 hours, bite-checking small pieces of the Tako along the way at that point, as being my first time smoking Tako, wasn’t really sure when exactly it would reach the doneness I wanted it at. In all, it took about 3 hours where I was confident in its doneness. A few guys on the local diving online discussion boards say 2 hours, which is because they preboiled the Tako in beer first for tenderizing and cooking, doing more of a cold smoke. Because I put the Tako on raw, I let her go an extra hour, plus adjusted my heat to fully cook the Tako in a “low ‘n slow” way.

Curtain call

After 3 hours total cooking and smoking time from raw to done, voila…

Tako and Portuguese Sausage just pau cooking ‘n smoking: angle A

Notice how much they shrunk in size due to water evaporation from within the Tako meat, and equally in the Portuguese Sausage-stuffed Aburage. There was some overcaramelized parts from the sugar in the various marinades, however about normal for any meat that’s been marinaded with sugar as part of its ingredients and smoked. Them “papa’a” areas actually add flavor boosts here and there as you eat through the stuff.

Let’s check from another angle…

Tako and Portuguese Sausage just pau cooking ‘n smoking: angle B

There you can see the kindling wood is still burning, with most of what remaining being burnt ashes.

OK, one more angle, this time where I took the whole “job” into the garage for better lighting, however my temporary camera (a Canon PowerShot A470) didn’t really do much more justice…

Smoking session all pau (left to right): Smoked Small Squid Portuguese Sausage style, Smoked Squid Big Island style, Smoked Tako Big Island style, Smoked Tako Misoyaki style and Smoked Tako Charsiu style. Top row: Smoked Semi-Homemade Portuguese Sausage Stuffed Aburage and Smoked Semi-Homemade Portuguese Sausage (rolled in foil so it sets-up like a sausage)

I can’t wait to try the semi-homemade Smoked Portuguese Sausage. Those will be bundled into my “The Great Portuguese Sausage Shootout – Round 2” post, which will follow this one. That’ll be another fun one! And yes, now being height-weight proportional (HWP for you swingers out there lol), I can afford it.

Let’s take a closer look under the lights (of my camera flash) at how each piece turned out after pau smoking…

Smoked Tako Big Island style

A slight semi-dry, semi-moist sheen going on from the caramelized marinade. Looks about right.

Smoked Tako Misoyaki style

I was admittedly concerned the miso paste in the misoyaki marinade would become, well, “pasty”. And it indeed had around the tentacle areas. However, that turned out being a good thing!

Smoked Tako Hawaiian style

The “Hawaiian style” ended having a really weird pinkish hue to it. I think because it had marinaded for too long.

Smoked Tako Charsiu style

Well I’ll be darned. That sure looks matter-of-fact like Smoked Charsiu Tako to me!

Proof of the pupu is in the grinding

Well, let’s cut ’em up and sample some cuz!…

Smoked Tako Big Island style

Ah, so much more resemblance of Smoked Tako when it’s cut up. Lookin’ good!

Smoked Tako Big Island style
• Flavor profile: Needs more sugar, more ginger, more garlic and more Hawaiian Chili Pepper. Scale back on salt for sure! (from the cleansing rub or marinade duration)
• Smoke profile: Kiawe smoke a bit too intense; needs to be toned down a bit.
• Texture profile: Brandy massage did it good. NAILED IT. Super soft ‘n tender.

Smoked Tako Misoyaki style

Notice the extra heavy “body” from the thick miso paste smoke-coating the skin surface of each slice of those Smoked Tako Misoyaki style slices above.

Smoked Tako Misoyaki style
• Flavor profile: Replace sugar with Mirin, and plenty of it, more ginger, more garlic. Scale back on salt for sure! (from the cleansing rub or marinade duration)
• Smoke profile: Kiawe smoke a bit too intense; needs to be toned down a bit.
• Texture profile: Brandy massage did it good. NAILED IT. Super soft ‘n tender.

Smoked Tako Hawaiian style

I really think I should have added some Hawaiian Honey (not the one at the corner of River Street at 12am in Chinatown lol) to the “Hawaiian style” for added flavor and color contrast.

Smoked Tako Hawaiian style
• Flavor profile: In comparison to the others, kinda’ weird. I think it needed sugar to balance out the salt, while the absence of shoyu probably brought out more natural flavor of the Tako meat itself, possibly giving it a bit more “fishyness” if you will. Not that bad in a gross way, but you know. This one was also the most salty of them all due to it being rubbed and marinaded in just Hawaiian Salt and Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water by “eyeball” method, plus sitting in that for an extended period of time, frozen state notwithstanding. Tough call on this one as far as readjusting the recipe. Still, not bad. Only, not as good as the other ones.
• Smoke profile: Interestingly, this one took on the least smoke level, flavor-wise, which I’m assuming is simply due to the lack of caramelized sugar, which probably acts like a “glue” if you will to the smoke particles; the latter of which are essentially carcinogenic.
• Texture profile: Interestingly, this the one that DIDN’T get the Brandy Massage, and you know what? It in fact DID MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Albeit very subtle. This one was just a tad bit less tender, yet by no means tough. So I’d say you can omit the Brandy Massage and still get away with a decently tender Smoked Tako after it has been just frozen for a while. If you have bad teeth or just prefer more “buttery” Tako meat, massage that baby with your favorite spirit, whether it be Brandy, Sake, Whiskey, or whatever floats your boat.

Smoked Tako Charsiu Style

OMG… That looks freekin’ AWESOME! I can just see the possibilities! Smoked Tako Charsiu style Saimin, Manapua, Wontons, Fried Rice, Seafood Burger Patties, Bahn Mi… the list can go on and on!

Smoked Tako Charsiu style
• Flavor profile: Well, like Charsiu Pork, in a Smoked Tako kinda’ way. That’s it! And you know what? Pretty darned good! See my suggestions above, and you get the drift.
• Smoke profile: Kiawe smoke a bit too intense; needs to be toned down a bit.
• Texture profile: Brandy massage did it good. NAILED IT. Super soft ‘n tender.

And what about that Smoked Squid? Well, let’s check it out…

Smoked Ika (Squid) Big Island style

The most noteworthy part of the Smoked Squid was the mantle (head), where it had this strange chalky and liver-like characteristic, both in flavor and texture. Same said for the Tako’s head part. It was kinda’ like eating cow’s brains, if you’ve ever tried that. So NOT good, IMO. Bleck! I say axe off the whole head, forget even cleaning it (removing guts), and just use the body and tentacles parts, as that was the essential “meaty” good part of it all, for both the Octopus and Squid.

Smoked Ika (Squid) Big Island style

Smoked Squid Big Island style
• Flavor profile: Same as the Big Island style Smoked Tako, albeit not as “meaty” as the Tako, but more neutral
• Smoke profile: Kiawe smoke way intense; needs to be toned down much more (although, I won’t be smoking another Squid anytime soon).
• Texture profile: Brandy massage did it good. NAILED IT. Super soft ‘n tender.

Let’s mix ‘n mingle

Not stopping there, let’s try making a couple renditions of Smoked Tako, Poke style!

This first one is what we’ll call “Local style”, as it’s simply seasoned with your typical “local style” Ahi Poke flavorings of Shoyu, Mirin and Sesame Oil…

Smoked Tako Poke Local Style ingrediments: Smoked Tako (mixed styles), fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, white onion, green onion, ogo (seeweed), shoyu, mirin and sesame oil

Toss it together until thoroughly combined and infused and BAM!…

Kiawe-Smoked Tako Poke Local style: Hawaiian Tako, Tomato, Onion, Green Onion, Ogo, Shoyu, Mirin and Sesame Oil

And? AWESOME! Way, WAY better like this then in plain form. At least for this initial batch I made. The mirin and sesame oil really was the ticket, as the sweetness from the Mirin and nuttiness from the sesame oil really helped to balance out the excessive saltiness and smokiness of the Smoked Tako in this particular batch. Then you get that leafy-green sea water-laced flavor and crunchy texture from the Ogo (seaweed), plus the kick from the white and green onions, and it really came together quite well. More like EXCELLENT. I’ll put it to you this way: I’d easily pay $10+/pound of this Smoked Tako Poke “Local style” batch after trying a sample. Winnahz!

Now let’s try whip-up some Smoked Tako Poke “Creamy Asian” style…

Smoked Tako Poke “Creamy Asian” style ingrediments: Smoked Tako (various flavors), fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumber, white onion, green onion, Fresh Catch’s creamy Original Savory Sauce (Mayonnaise-based), Mirin and Sesame Oil

Shuffle the cards thoroughly, and BAM!…

Smoked Tako Poke “Creamy Asian” style: Smoked Tako (various flavors), fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumber, white onion, green onion, Fresh Catch’s Creamy Original Sauce (Mayonnaise-based), Mirin and Sesame Oil

And? Wow! Admittedly I was initially skeptical about adding a mayo’-based “sauce” to this, but you know what? Great gambling call, as it turned out being AWESOME! Fresh Catch’s creamy, mayonnaise-based Original Savory Sauce really took-on the smokey flavor from the Tako in a creamy way of course, giving it this rounded-out, smooth delivery to the palate. That also helped tone-down the saltiness of the most salty smoked Tako pieces. The addition of the cucumbers also really helped to freshen-up the dish.

Summing it up, I’d again also easily fork-out over $10+/pound for this here Smoked Tako Poke “Creamy Asian style” after just one sampling bite. Broke da’ mout’ winnahz!

Makin’ the Bacon

Finally (for now), thinking a little outside the box, I decided to treat Smoked Tako as an ideal pescetarian’s substitute for bacon. So I tried pan-frying the smoked Tako I made here, and you know what? It tastes almost like smoked pork! I kid you not! Of course sans all that tasty pork fat, but being that Tako is very lean and healthy for you, that’s a good thing for us weight watchers looking for tasty alternatives to our favorite comfort foods. Read more on the health benefits of Octopus here. Go try buy some store-bought Smoked Tako and pan-fry it in a little oil. Winnahz!

So I took the pan-fried Smoked Tako, which included a combination of pieces from the Big Island, Hawaiian and Misoyaki style batches and made a “STLT” a.k.a. Smoked Tako, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich, in honor of the classic — and one of my favorite — the “BLT”, a.k.a. Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich…

STLT” a.k.a. Smoked Tako, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich (to the tune of the classic “BLT”)

“Ooooooohhh, he went there.” Yes folks, I went there. Notice in my BLT-turned-STLT sandwich “build”, that I place the Smoked Tako directly onto the generously slathered Mayonnaise sauce on the bread, as I want the smokey flavor from the Tako to permeate and infuse into the mayo’ for added flavor. And believe me, that really makes a difference! You can REALLY taste the smoke and marinade get amplified by the “eggy” mayo’.

Let’s assemble it and sample some, cuz’…

STLT” a.k.a. Smoked Tako, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich (to the tune of the classic “BLT”)

And? Freekin’ AWESOME. Seriously, as good as if it were bacon. For the Mayo’, I used the same Fresh Catch creamy Original Savory Sauce as I did for the Creamy Asian style Smoked Tako Poke. Also notice I toast my bread. Gots’da’. Next time you make or have some Smoked Tako, try making your own “STLT”. Excellent!


Thank you for coming

Wrapping this party up, keep in mind again, this was my VERY FIRST TIME EVER smoking Tako. And it certainly was a learning experience.

Following is what I learned to adjust with on the next Tako smoking round:
SALT. When removing the slime, the raw Tako ABSORBS the salt in a macerating way, acting like a sponge, so even though you rinse it thoroughly with water, the salt is already soaked into the meat. Therefore, if your marinade has salt in it, such as shoyu, it should be in short duration, not long like how I did it this first time.
SUGAR. Needs more in the marinade to counteract the salt. On the next Tako smoking round, I’ll use Mirin, and more of it, while also trying some Honey. I think the Big Island style marinade should taste closer to Teriyaki, if you know what I mean.
SMOKE. Tone it down. Kiawe has a VERY AGGRESSIVE smoke flavor, and the Tako is a very subtle meat, flavor-wise, so the smoke has to match that or it gets overpowered. I’ll try experiment with fruit wood on the next round, like Lychee or Guava.I also won’t keep adding smoke wood entirely during the cooking/smoking process, but let just it cook in the last hour or so.
MANTLE. The head of the Tako SUCKS. It tastes like a combination of beef brains and liver, with that chalky “innards” flavor profile, while texture-wise, it’s like Pate. Same was the case for the Squid. Just smoke the main body and tentacles. That’s the money.
TENDERNESS. Massaging the Tako with Brandy, or whatever spirit you choose definitely made a difference. While the Hawaiian style version that didn’t get a Brandy massage treatment was still acceptably tender, thanks to the fact that the Tako had been frozen for several months, the ones that got the Brandy massage were noticeably more tender. Think of how tender a high quality Ribeye steak is, and that’s about where the Tako massaged with Brandy was at. While the one that didn’t get the massage, but had been frozen, was about the tenderness of a good Pork Chop.

With that, I’m quite confident my second and further attempts will only get better and better, as it always is in life. I at least now better understand the “dynamics” of preparing and cooking with Tako totally from “scratch” if you will. Whenever you smoke foods, salt, sugar and smoke levels are typically the part most difficult to perfect unless you’re a really seasoned smoking veteran. I think I know what to do for the next Tako smoking session to get it perfect.

As always, hope this was as good for you as it was for me. Now I need to go smoke a cigarette. (No I don’t smoke, but you know what I mean. LOL!) This was one SMOKIN’ HOT session! Whew! LOL!!!

P.S. I tried doing another “outside the box” application of Smoked Tako that I was going to include as part of this demo’, but it didn’t turn out good, so I’m not including it. lol

That experiment would be the Smoke Tako Charsiu style, thrown in as garnish in Saimin…

Charsiu Style Smoked Tako Saimin

While it sounds good on paper, and looks pretty darned ono, as I expected might happen, the strong Kiawe smoke particles stuck on the Tako melted right into the broth, making the broth taste like I had run it through the bottom of the smoker, then poured back in the bowl. It just didn’t taste like Saimin anymore, but more like smoked noodles.

Havin’ a bite of some Charsiu style Smoked Tako Saimin

The Charsiu flavor and meaty texture of the Tako certainly complimented the nice ‘n al dente saimin noodles, but the dashi broth being almost completely overpowered by a smokey flavor was counterproductive to that. I dunno. You might like it, but I didn’t care for it, and wouldn’t recommend trying it.

There ya’ go. Your friendly neighborhood blogger taking yet another gastronomic bullet for your amusement and reading pleasure. LOL!

Lastly, here’s a live Tako a diver caught off Diamond Head yesterday, which he let go, ’cause was too small (about 3/4 pound)…

Catch & release 3/4 pound Tako off Diamond Head

Catch & release 3/4 pound Tako off Diamond Head

Once set free into the water, the young Tako immediately turned on its natural “cloaking device”, camouflaging itself by changing colors and blending right in with the surrounding rocks and sand…

P.P.S. Here’s a short video clip I took of a diver who just caught 10 Tako off Diamond Head Beach today (1.27.13). He said had “choke” (plenty) out there today. He said he going smoke all of ’em. Good call!…

The Tasty Island related links:
Steamed To’au by Diner E
The Best Poke in Honolulu is at Ono Seafood
Time for Tako Poke
Return to Marujyu Market


26 thoughts on “Smoked Tako 4 + 3 Ways

  • January 25, 2013 at 5:26 am

    looks supah ono brah….i wish i could get this on da east coast.

    • January 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Right on, Sistah! ;-)

        • January 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm

          Oh, my bad. Make that BRADDAH Kelly. lol

          No worries. I used to get that every now and then before I started posting pics of myself here. Some folks assumed “Pomai” was a female name and referred to me as “she”. Thanks. Thanks a lot. They’ll just have to come check out my “night job” out ‘n about on River Street @ 12am, where I go as “Pomailani”… “oh SNAP, girlfriend”. LOL!!!

  • January 25, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Looks great. As for the kiawe being intense, that is also my experience. Ditto for guava. Java plum (dried for month only) not as intense. So many years ago I went to mainland woods. Sometimes hickory, but I really like apple for a good and mild smoke. Home Depot often has the mainland fruit woods available in the BBQ section cut for smoking.

    • January 25, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Pat, this is the first time I’ve used store-bought kiln-dried Kiawe chunks this big. I wasn’t sure how long they’d burn or how much smoke they’d give off. I’ve had great results in the past using the store-bought Mesquite (same as Kiawe) wood chips, as I can really control how much smoke I want, since you can “sprinkle” how much you want to add for more smoke, vs. putting on one large wet log.

      I got some Peach, Cherry and Apple fruit wood samples from reader and Barbecue Pitmaster Crash at one of the Meat Smoking Competitions. I’ll try using that next time I smoke something.

      I’ll run by Home Depot later today and see what they’ve got, since I need to make a run by Best Buy across the street. Will let you know what they’ve got.

      • January 25, 2013 at 8:32 pm

        Well then, Crash and I agree on this. (And likely on a lot of other stuff). And when I said Java Plum for month, I really meant totally dry. The wet stuff is no good. Yuk. As bad as guava. Too strong. Too acidic. I have not used peach and cherry (was tempted), but I like the fruit and nut woods woods generally. Makes sense. I wonder about lychi? I know I have cooked with it, but do not remember smoking. And my mom always said: never cook with mango.
        My father used to pick kiawe bean pods when he was a kid. A nickle a burlap bag he told me. Horse and cattle food. Sheesh.

        • January 26, 2013 at 7:08 am

          Pat, wow, you sure know your wood! lol What kind of smoker do you have? Homemade or store-bought? I’ve seen everything from an old refrigerator, old steel locker, to corrugated roofing “house”. Crash uses the Weber-type “Smokey Bullet”.

          We (my dad) used to have a super classic, heavy-duty ceramic “Green Egg” Kamado Japanese Grill (the really big one), but I don’t recall him using it to smoke stuff, just grill.

          I’m also curious about smoking with Lychee wood, but don’t know anyone personally who has a tree. I’ll ask mom if she knows someone. That would sound very exotic: “Lychee-smoked Mango-glazed BBQ Ribs”. Or, “Lychee-smoked Tako Poke”. Wow!

          • January 26, 2013 at 10:53 am

            We used an old army field stove. Was perfect. Stainless steel with all kinds of openings that could be controlled. About 4 feet high and 3 feet square. Could handle a lot. It disappeared in the chaos following Hurricane Iniki. Now I use Weber just like you. Costco has brought the Komodo back I notice and I don’t see why it would not work. Hey. But I still have my garbage can laulau steamer with the wood platform and burlap. lol

        • January 26, 2013 at 11:15 am


          I like the idea of the latter: your old garbage can laulau steamer with the wood platform and burlap.

          Please blog a Tako-smoking session using that. That would truly be classic!

          BTW, you can be a guest blogger here ANY DAY!

  • January 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Epic and inspiring post, Pomai! I’m going to have to try to prepare octopus and squid again.

    • January 25, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Loubert, thanks! It’s always good to have posts like this for future reference to help others looking for resources on how to smoke the more unusual stuff like Tako. Not much out there on how to smoke it “Hawaii style”.

      Smoking really is a finely-honed craft to REALLY get it right. Takes experience. Every meat is so different. Or whatever it is you’re smoking. I’d like to try smoking mushrooms and nuts in a future project.

  • January 26, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Um… I think I love you. lol Kick “A” read bro.

    • January 26, 2013 at 7:09 am


      I love you too, man. But you’re still not getting my Bud Light. lol And, thanks!

  • January 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

    You should try the Heeia Kea Pier General Store and Deli’s approach. First boiled in beer till tender then flour coated and fried. My uncle used to do this with leftover tako poke… if there was any leftovers…

    • January 27, 2013 at 7:56 am


      Deep-fried Tako? I’m so there! Definitely gotta’ have some Cocktail Sauce and squeeze of Lemon with that.

  • January 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    FYI, I just added a YouTube video clip I shot today at Diamond Head Beach, where a diver had just caught 10 Tako, weighing between 1.25 to 2 pounds each. He said today out there had “choke” (plenty). A Tako diver’s dream come true!

    Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch it, or click the YouTube link here:


  • January 28, 2013 at 6:02 am

    hey Pomai,
    Have you ever seen the movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi(netfliks has it for free)? He has his apprentices massage the tako for at least 45 minutes straight. Now that must be tender. Your tako looks so ono.

    • January 28, 2013 at 6:21 am


      Haven’t seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi yet, but do have it on my Netflix cue. Massaging my Tako with Brandy definitely worked out quite well. Super tender! Now to master salt and smoke level on my next Tako smoking session. Also need to adjust sweetness level.

      • January 30, 2013 at 8:02 am

        Pomai that movie is a foodie’s dream….Jiro says you can never “master” sushi.

  • April 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm


    So glad I stumbled onto your blog and especially informative about smoking tako. Just started smokin’ things recently and can wait to try your recipes and methods. Takes me back home since I live in California. One comment regarding smoking. I am by no means an expert, but I have read that the smoking flavor actually gets infused into the meat earlier during the smoking process. As the meats cooks the out layers become more dense an will prevent the “smoke” flavor from penetrating into the meat. So I would smoke it earlier in the process but use less chips. A really good information site for smoking is: smokingmeatsforum.com The people there are really helpful and there is a ton of information. Can’t wait to find some tako to smoke. Aloha!!


    • April 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Aloha Patrick,

      Keep in mind, this was my very first attempt at smoking Tako, so take my method with a grain of salt. As noted, when I do this again, I’ll definitely precook the Tako first by boiling it in beer or sake. Trying to both cook and smoke the tako at the same time resulted in it being too smokey, while I also let it marinade too long, so it was rather salty. Next time what I’ll do is deslime the Tako with Hawaiian salt first, then rinse it really well. Then I’ll boil the Tako in beer or sake for about an hour, or until fully cooked and tender. In the second half of the boiling phase, I’ll add my marinade, which will likely be a combination of shoyu, mirin, honey, garlic, ginger and Hawaiian Chili Pepper. Then I’ll smoke it “hard” with Kiawe for about 45 minutes, and taste test it.

      We’ll see how my Smoked Tako turns out, round II! Patrick, good luck on yours as well!

  • May 19, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Try alder wood next time. I use it to smoke salmon and it is delicious. Smoke flavor, but does not overpower like kiawe. I used kiawe for the first batch of fish I ever smoked, and it was good but the smoke flavor overpowered the fish. Kiawe is good for smoking meat (not really good for fish). Apple or cherry also are excellent for fish, and all these can be bought at city mill or home depot on Oahu (if in stock).

    • May 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Roy, mahalo for the tip. I agree, Kiawe is really strong, and can overpower the meat if you go too long with it, as it did with my first attempt at smoked tako. Which is why next time I’ll boil the tako first to cook it, instead of trying to smoke-cook it, as I did with this batch.

      I have some stashed samples of Apple and Peach wood from Crash that I’ll try using next time, if I can find it. Otherwise, I’ll try “Strawberry” Guava wood.

  • May 21, 2013 at 12:19 am

    I’ve got some guava wood for you if you like. I’ll bring it to the June Up In Smoke contest for you.

  • January 12, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Hi Pomai,

    I just caught some tako this past weekend! Will smoke it and try your STLT recipe, never thought of eating it that way.



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