Korean “Live” Baby Octopus

September, 2006


By Curtiss Calleo

It was like walking into a small village in Korea. All heads turned to see who had just walked into the restaurant and why. Finally, someone from the only occupied table in the rear put their napkin down, got up, and approached us… “No English! No English” she said. Her table, meanwhile, went back to eating.

I asked hopefully: “Hi, we are looking for live octopus. Do you have it?” She looked at us suspiciously. I couldn’t tell if she just couldn’t understand me or was wondering if I was crazy. I made a motion with my hand, simulating an octopus swimming. “Live octopus”, I said. Finally, a young voice from  behind said in accented but clear English: “Yes, but you won’t like. “I turned to the young Korean and said,  “Oh yes, we like. We like. So, you have it?”

We had been talking about this dish for months. Neither of us really believed that there was such a thing or that New York would be able to offer it. That Sunday afternoon we decided to drive around Flushing Queens — Koreatown — in search of it. We’d passed blocks and blocks of Korean signs, hardly any in English, the occasional one in Spanish. A sea of Korean people, only once in a while a white couple, smiling and gawking as if on their first trip to Asia. At least that’s how I felt. I couldn’t believe I was a half an hour from Manhattan. At any promising-looking restaurant we pulled over, and I did my little spiel inside with the hostess. “I’m looking for a dish,” I’d say. “A ‘special’ dish.” Invariably, the hostess would call an older woman for help, who’d listen to my story. I could always tell when I was being understood, because they’d shake their heads. “We have much seafood, we have octopus, but not this dish”.

Finally, after a few of these exchanges, we found one who wrote down the name of a place. “Susan’s Seafood” she said. They have it.  Now go.

So here we were at SU SAN’S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT, as the sign said. We looked around. Tanks lined the walls were filled with live fish imported straight from Korea. Fluke, all kinds of clams, and all sorts of weird sea creatures I’d never seen in person. A flounder returned my stare. What to make of this place? We gazed at the only English menu they had. ‘Sea Squirt’ what on earth was that? Sea worms, raw fish, raw everything. And then, there it was. Live baby octopus. I was amazed.

Ben was amazed.

For the rest of the ride back, we couldn’t contain ourselves. This is going to be the best Gastronauts outing ever, we thought. We couldn’t believe we found this place.

Su San’s Seafood put on a spread for us that was hard to believe. Dish after dish arrived, miles of Sea Cucumbers, clams, raw lobster (still moving) , Fluke, Sea Bass, and the king of all raw and wiggly things: The live baby octopus.  It was an epic meal, even by our standards.



40-30 149th Place
Flushing, Queens
Tuesday, September 5, 2006