Nakji Bokkeum 낙지볶음 (Spicy Octopus Stir Fry)

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We were craving something spicy, so I made us some extra spicy nakji bokkeum (octopus stir fry) for our dinner. The picture wasn’t focused as clearly as I wanted, but I think you can get an idea what it is from the tentacles hanging loose.

 

We finally got to enjoy a spicy seafood dish when we found some frozen octopus at the local Asian market. Instead of using our usual Korean store, which is handicapped with bad produce, limited ingredients, and overpricing, we have been finding more and more Korean items like this for our dishes. Now if they would only start carrying kimchi then we would be happy campers. As for this particular dish, nakji bokkeum (spicy octopus stir fry), this is a popular dish for those who love seafood and spicy foods, a combination that can make this dish quite addicting. For our version, it’s pretty basic except for the fact that we added somyeon (thin noodles) and extra, extra sauce. Most Koreans will attest and acknowledge that the combination of the spicy sauce and soft rice go perfect together. Many restaurants in Korea save this leftover sauce and make an entirely new “after-meal” dish, usually consisting of rice, gim (seaweed), sesame oil. Sadly, you really can’t recreate this “after-meal” at home, but the chewy, spicy taste of the octopus was just fine with us. If you are one of those people who can’t handle or dislike the chewiness of octopus, substituting with squid is a common alternative. Lastly, this dish can get pretty spicy even for Koreans. For a milder version, go ahead and slash the spicy ingredients (gochujang and gochugaru) in half and it should be bearable.

Here are the ingredients for our spicy nakji bokkeum. You can mix and match the vegetables to your liking but going minimal is preferred with this octopus dish.
The basic vegetables include carrots, onions, and green onions. You can definitely mix and match ones that fit your palate.
The sauce or marinade getting ready for the octopus. Marinating is optional but if you’re in a hurry skipping this step won’t hurt.
Rinse the octopus several times under cold water and start cutting away. Pieces should be around 2-inches in length. Don’t be intimidated if you think it’s looking at you directly.
Unbelievably, we had a female octopus with eggs that just burst out from its head upon cutting. We were both surprised (at first) and then slightly saddened that she (the octopus) was fatally chosen for our meal. As for the eggs, they were disposed of since we had no idea how to prepare them and got a little queasy in the stomach just looking at them. As for cutting, remove insides with knife, rinse well, and cut in strips.

If you want this dish extra spicy, add some red or green peppers of your choosing or increase the gochujang and/or gochugaru. If you want this non-spicy, shave off half of the spicy ingredients (red pepper paste and flakes).

We decided to marinade the ingredients for about 30 minutes. This allows the sauce to settle and soak into the ingredients.

In a hot skillet or non-stick pan, stir the octopus and vegetables for about 10 minutes. If you like extra sauce like we do, add some water and a tad soy sauce and cook until the sauce slightly thickens.
We cooked up some thin noodles called somyeon, pairing nicely with the spicy stir fry and giving it more depth in texture and taste.

 

Servings: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Marinade time: 30~60 minutes (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb octopus, de-gutted and cleaned
  • 1 small onion, sliced into strips
  • 2 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 red or green chili peppers, sliced diagonally
  • 2, 3 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
  • 2 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • somyeon (thin noodles; optional)
  • shiitake mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (garnish)

  1. Directions:If using frozen octopus, allow to defrost at room temperature until ready for use. Wash and rinse octopus under cold water. Cut the legs/tentacles into 2-3 inch pieces. Cut open head and shave off insides with a knife. Rinse off ink and other remains, cut into strips.
  2. Cut all vegetables into 2 or 3 inch strips and set aside until marinade/sauce is made. Save the green onions separately and add near the end of cooking.
  3. Prepare and mix all ingredients for sauce in a mixing bowl. For extra spiciness, add extra gochujang (red pepper paste) or chili peppers of your liking.
  4. Combine spicy sauce with octopus and marinate for 30~60 minutes. This is an optional step that can be skipped if time is limited.
  5. Heat a non-stick pan on a medium high heat, cook for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Octopus cook fairly quickly, so there is no need to worry about undercooking them.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or green onion. Serve with somyeon or warm rice and enjoy!
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