Except in some snazzy restaurants in Manila whose kitchens are run by foreigners or influenced by Filipino chefs who have trained abroad, I don’t think octopus is a common ingredient on local menus at all. But it SHOULD be. It’s an incredibly flavorful creature and it is proving reasonably easy to cook as well (I wouldn’t have said that up until last year, when it always seemed to turn out rubbery and tough when I cooked it). Many folks aren’t familiar with octopus, and when you say you are cooking some up for lunch, the vast majority are skeptical, despite the fact they have never bothered to try eating it before. At least that was the overwhelming reaction I got recently when I ordered several kilos of octopus from our fishmonger in Cebu and served it at the office for lunch.
First, I braised several medium sized octopi in their own juices (along with some bay leaves, whole peppercorns and a touch of red wine vinegar) for roughly 50-60 minutes until tender. Then I seasoned them with sea salt, black pepper and dried red chilies and some olive oil and grilled some of them over an open flame briefly and sliced them and served it with a dipping sauce of soy and vinegar. A few other octopi I seared on a cast iron sizzling plate (photos above) which didn’t quite crisp the tentacles enough but they still tasted pretty darned good. The octopus was tender, flavorful and almost meaty. Something I think most people would really enjoy eating if they just got over the “eew they are tentacles” reaction!