Taste of Japan: Okinawa octopus cracker real deal

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Taste of Japan: Okinawa octopus cracker real deal

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Mainland Japan’s food culture continues to migrate to Okinawa, and every year new Japanese chain restaurants pop up on the island. Even items that were unique to the mainland like “Ehoumaki,” a sushi roll eaten on the day of Setsubun, are now common on Okinawa.

One item that had yet to make the trip, Maruyaki Tako-senbei crackers made with octopus, are the latest addition to the island food scene.

If you didn’t take the translation of the name literally, well, you’d be wrong. The cracker doesn’t just taste like octopus – it has the body of one inside it.

At first sight, this may look like a character straight out of a sci-fi or fantasy movie. With the entire body trapped in a flat cracker, it makes one wonder what it would take to make that happen.

It’s not something out of Superman or Harry Potter, but rather a couple of iron pans and the skills of the cooks at Maruyaki Tako-senbei Okinawan Honten that make this trick possible.

At the shop in American Village, curious visitors can get a peek into the glass-walled kitchen and see just how they do it.

According to the shop’s website, it takes about two minutes to bake a couple of octopi which are mixed with starch and special sauce before being pressed against the 365°F iron plates with one ton of pressure.

Not only is the physical body of the octopus compressed and preserved in the cracker, one bite and I could tell the flavor was, too. The seafood brings a touch of sweetness and softness to the crispy cracker. Regardless of its unique form, the snack tastes classic in a sense. If your definition of tasty food includes something that goes well with beer, you’ll love this. There is also Maruyaki Ebi-senbei (shrimp cracker), which is made the same way, but with a more distinct flavor and crispness.

“I would recommend that you take it to the beach and eat it quickly. It’s paper thin and the wind can break it,” said shop manger Miho Hiraiwa, who noted that the food originated around Enoshima Shonan Beach in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The thought of the food being a beach treat made sense to me. When I tasted the unique cracker, I could envision young people having a good time on the beach with the snack in hand. It could be a scene from a Japanese pop song or a TV show. In fact, the food has been covered by the media as an exceptionally popular food in Kanagawa.

“Some Americans are intrigued when they see it. They occasionally buy and try it,” said Hiraiwa, whose shop is only a few minutes from Sunset Beach.

The octopus cracker may not help Americans recall the times they spent on Laguna Beach or South Beach, but the snack food pairs well with Okinawa’s beautiful, sandy beaches.


Maruyaki Tako-senbei Okinawa Honten

Address: 9-21 Mihama, Chatan-cho, Depot Island Seaside Building 1F 
GPS Coordinates: N 26.315680, E 127.753762
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. 
*Maruyaki Tako-senbei is 400 yen, Maruyaki Ebi-senbei is 600 yen.

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