How a Master Sushi Chef Prepares an Octopus Dish

At NYC’s Nakaji, third-generation sushi chef Kunihide Nakajima solidifies his family’s legacy through his food. Taught by his father, Nakajima makes dishes using ingredients like melons, whelk, eel, and more.

In one dish, Nakajima uses octopus, which he calls “one of Japan’s most iconic food items.”

The octopus is sourced from Sajima in the Kanagawa prefecture and weighs three kilograms with the beak and eyes removed.

“I was about six years old when I first prepared an octopus,” he says, washing the mollusc, which causes the tentacles to curl and stiffen. This, he explains, proves the freshness and quality.

The octopus is then boiled, but first Nakajima makes cuts in between the joins to help it cook evenly.

Nakajima uses an Edomae style, which means his seafood sourced from the Tokyo Bay. The octopus is cooked in vinegar and soy sauce and prepared with adzuki beans, a style called sakurani.

“I’m using my father’s recipe where it’s cooked medium-rare in hojicha [green tea],” describes Nakajmia. “The aroma of the tea blends well with the octopus and it creates a unique flavor.”

He only cooks the octopus for about a minute and a half, and once it is done, the previously grey-ish octopus is a deep red color. The tentacles have also curled up significantly more.

He then cuts the octopus and straightens the tentacles out to get it ready for service.

“It’s not quite a sashimi, and definitely not a sushi” says Nakajima.