Spicy stir-fried octopus, called nakji-bokkeum in Korean, is loved by many Koreans. It’s also one of my all-time favorite dishes.
If you love spicy seafood, this is what you’re looking for. The najki (octopus) we use to make it has long thin arms and a small oval head. It’s found in the shores of North East Asia, and also in the frozen section of Korean grocery stores (or fresh if you can find it). Peak season for nakji is winter, and that’s when the nakji restaurants in Korea fill their freezers with octopus, enough to use for the upcoming year.
Reading: how to cook octopus stir fry
I did a lot of experiments to come up a good sweet, salty, smoky, and spicy balance for the seasoning in this recipe, but the nakji was always tough. Finally I figured out the special ingredient: a 2 minute vigorous massage. it worked perfectly and the octopus was very tender.
Developing this recipe was important, not only do I get to share this with you, but I also get to use it for the rest of my life. Whenever I want to make delicious nakji-bokkeum, it’s right here waiting for me! I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do!
- 1 package (1½ pounds) of frozen long arm octopus, thawed out in the refrigerator
- 2 tablespoons flour (or salt)
- 7 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 Korean spicy green chili pepper (or jalapeño), chopped
- 4 ounces onion, chopped
- 1 large Korean green onion (or 4 green onions), chopped
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup hot pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon potato starch (or cornstarch)
- ¼ cup rice syrup
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Read more: Fried Ravioli | Family Cuisine
How to handle the nakji:
- Cut open the heads and remove the intestines and beaks.
- Put in a large bowl. Add flour and scrub vigorously for about 2 minutes until it foams. This process not only tenderizes the octopus but also cleans any dirt or mud stuck in the suckers.
- Rinse in cold running water until it’s not slippery anymore. Drain.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the octopus for 10 to 12 seconds, drain, and then transfer to a cutting board.
- Cut the heads and arms into bite size pieces. Set aside.
Make seasoning sauce:
- Combine all the seasoning ingredients (hot pepper flakes, soy sauce, sugar, potato starch, rice syrup and ground black pepper) in a small bowl.
- Mix well with a spoon.
- Heat up a large pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil.
- Stir in garlic, ginger, green chili pepper, onion, and green onion for about 3 minutes until the garlic turns a little brown and the onion translucent.
- Add nakji and seasoning sauce. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in sesame oil. Transfer it to a serving plate and serve right away with rice.