When I was growing up, I was taught to eat octopus. Because we were poor and we didn’t live anywhere near the ocean, we ate can octopus. I always thought it was special because my mom would dress it up like a salad with vinegar, chopped onions, peppers, and olives. I loved it and I still do today, especially if accompanied with fried plantains. Every time I go grocery shopping I make sure to pick up a few cans in garlic oil.
Not until I was in my 20’s was the first time I had fresh octopus on a vacation to Puerto Rico and I quickly noticed the difference, it obviously didn’t have the can taste. I couldn’t get enough of it during my many vacations to the island. Everywhere I would go I would order it knowing that once I got back home it was back to the can. Still, today when I go on vacation it’s one of the first plates that I order. Oh, but it gets better.
It was not however till I was about 37 did I taste for the first-time octopus that was not in the form of a salad or can. It was fresh octopus Galician style. It was at a Portuguese restaurant in New Jersey called Valenca and it was very delicious, this restaurant has been there since 1989 and sometimes you must wait 2 hours for a table. Their octopus is cooked to perfection, it has a buttery taste that just melts in your mouth and it is super tender, yet it is not cooked in butter. The way they make it is to simply boil the octopus, once done it is cut to bite-sized pieces and served with freshly pressed olive oil, rock salt, and lots of paprika. Some places accompany it with either bread but at Valenca it is served with chopped boiled potatoes pieces.
Want to learn about other cultures and countries, start small by trying their foods. Stay tuned as Portugal is on my bucket list and I guarantee you I will be trying their fresh octopus and coming back to write about it…to be continued…
Rosa J. Parra
CEO & Founder of Palo Magazine