Friday, June 22, 2012

Spicy Octopus Stirfry (낙지볶음 Nakji Bokkeum)

I also have an updated recipe with prettier photos, if you're interested!

A huge huge huge warning before you read the rest of this post. If octopus/squid/tentacled creatures make you squeamish, I urge you to be aware that there are some pretty ugly photos in this post. If you're not squeamish and you love nakji bokkeum or ohjinguh bokkeum (squid), throw caution to the wind and read on because this recipe is yummy.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1-1/4 lb octopus or calamari - I used little tiny octopi, 쭈꾸미 (jjoo-ggoo-mee)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon hot pepper paste
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 bell pepper
1 hot pepper (if you don't mind the extra spice)
*optional: 1 cup of wheat noodles or udon or any noodle you like
*also optional: 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
This is why I had to give the warning at the beginning of the post. Doesn't this look like some sort of freaky monster?!?!?! Preparing octopus is a pretty annoying task. With these little guys, you really don't have to do too much cleaning but I did anyway because the idea of eating the beak (yes, this scary little thing has a beak) and the ink sac (oh boy...) just grossed me out too much. What I did was cut off the tentacles and then cut them in half just to make it a bite-size piece. Then I chopped off the area with the eyes, where the beak is stored, and tossed that out. If that seems wasteful to you, you can sort of do a little squeezing and the beak will pop out, kind of like a pimple (GROSS!). Then, I pull the little ball thingy out of its bulbous "brain" area but v. carefully because otherwise the ink sac can pop and make a mess. There are tons of sites on the interweb that go much more into detail about cleaning these so I suggest you go there for more help if my instructions seem terrible to you.

Chop up the peppers and onion into bite-sized pieces.
Next, prepare the sauce. Just mix together the garlic, sugar, hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil together until it's combined.
Then, heat up a wide and shallow pan, add oil and vegetables and saute just until the onions start to turn translucent. Then add in the cleaned and prepped octopus pieces and give it a good stir. Then add in the sauce and give it another good stir until the sauce coats the rest of the ingredients.
Meanwhile, boil some water and cook the noodles. These are wheat noodles, typically used for jjajangmyun (noodles with brown sauce) but you could use udon or be creative and use any other noodle you might think would be good. Cook and drain and then place the noodles on your serving plate.
When the stir fry starts to get pretty juicy and the octopus is just cooked through, turn off the heat because it's ready. These baby octopi don't take much time to cook through and become perfectly tender but if you go overboard with the flames, you could risk making them really tough and chewy.
Dump the stir fry over the noodles, sauce and all.
Sprinkle with some sesame seeds - for both presentation and texture/taste and serve. We usually just have this as another banchan (side dish) and eat it with rice but I suppose it could be a meal in and of itself.
YUM.

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