Before you click play on this video, be warned: it is not for the squeamish or for animal lovers.
A little while ago we headed out to He Lin, a Korean seafood restaurant on a street crammed full of other Korean and Japanese seafood restaurants, in Minhang district. We live beyond the ring road in the wilds of Putuo, but even we thought it was a bit of a trek to get there — and we don’t even like seafood much. So why bother? Well, we’d heard that He Lin offered a certain specialty that we just had to try: live baby octopus.
Despite thinking it a great idea at first, we have to admit that as our turn to eat one of our eight armed friends got closer, we became increasingly nervous. Sat on cushions on the upstairs floor of the restaurant, we watched as other people’s octopuses (octopi? octopodes?) squirmed out of their mouths, suckering onto the outside of their cheeks. Still, it was too late for us to back out and so, pushing all thoughts of it climbing back up our throat out of our mind, we plucked up our courage and did the deed.
The Korean guys in the restaurant would take their octopus (prepared by the waitresses) and, with no more than two chews, swallow the whole thing down with some beer. We felt that our octopus was considerably bigger than theirs (naturally) and certainly too big to be swallowed whole so we settled for chewing. And chewing. And chewing. Although we put it out of its misery early on, it was a good ten to fifteen minutes before we had an empty mouth again.
So was it worth it? Maybe for story telling/freaking out friends and family purposes, but food-wise we felt there wasn’t really any flavour to speak of. The rest of the dishes at the restaurant were also a little disappointing, although in fairness we don’t like seafood much generally and live octopus is a pretty hard dish to follow.
A week or so later and we are still eyeing seemingly benign foods warily and openly asking questions such as “did that potato just move?” Fun for all the family, this certainly isn’t but, if you’re looking for a memorable dining experience, a trip to He Lin for live octopus will definitely stick in your mind for a long time.
He Lin: 232 Ziteng Lu, near Qingshan Lu; 紫藤路232号, 近青杉路 [map]
Tel. 3431 3930 (You need to phone ahead for live octopi)
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