09 Apr2010


Don’t they look utterly stunning? I always thought so, and it is this aspect that has always intrigued me about baby octopus. Every time I would leaf through a food magazine (Australian ones in particular are fond of this ingredient) or cookbook with a photo or recipe for baby octopus, I would stop and read it. Looks were definitely the hook, taste and texture followed… So after I managed to purchase 2 kilos of baby octopus at the Carbon market in Cebu a few days ago, I decided to try and make two dishes, and this grilled baby octopus salad with tomatoes was the first dish…


First the baby octopodes were cleaned and because I was concerned that direct grilling would result in tough meat, I simmered the octopuses in water with some lemon juice bay leaves, peppercorns and salt for some 25-30 minutes until tender and drained them and discarded the herbs/spices. Next, I sprinkled the octopi with olive oil and salt and pepper and grilled them over hot coals for a few minutes just to crisp up their tentacle tips and add a smokey flavor and aroma.


I tossed the grilled octopi with some small ripe native tomatoes dressed with a touch of red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper and served this as photographed. They were delicious, but I have to say, a bit tougher than I thought they should be. I don’t know if I simmered them for too little time or too much time. At any any rate, I understand why most recipes call for chopping the octopus into smaller pieces but I was after looks and visuals with the whole mini beasts curling their tentacles. They tasted great, just a bit chewier than they should have been.


If I had some baby arugula that would have taken this dish up a notch. But experiment and learn… I hope I find more baby octopi in local markets in the months ahead so I can try other recipes as well. Keep in mind this trick that Mario Batali swears by… float a traditional wine cork in the liquid that you simmer the octopodes in and it should ensure that they are cooked to tender perfection. What that is, even Mario doesn’t know… :)



  1. millet says:

    must keep a mental note to keep all those corks from wine bottles. no, make that..must keep a mental note to buy only those wines with real cork stoppers!

    Apr 9, 2010 | 11:18 am


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  3. Connie C says:

    MM, perhaps you boiled them too long? I know squid and shrimps get tough when cooked more than several minutes. Haven’t cooked octopus though.
    How about adding slivers of cucumber or grilled red pepper then dressed with lime sugar dressing and garlic infused oil then topped with toasted garlic?

    Apr 9, 2010 | 11:24 am

  4. Lee says:

    Hi Millet.. the grill looks familiar di ba?

    Apr 9, 2010 | 12:49 pm

  5. Bubut says:

    how about not boiling it at all and directly grill them. once those tentancles got curly, it means they are done. thanks for sharing the post. It looks so delicious.

    Apr 9, 2010 | 12:55 pm

  6. joyce says:

    the lighting in your first and last photos make the dish look as good as you described it. have you changed cameras? ;P

    Apr 9, 2010 | 12:58 pm

  7. Enteng says:

    one can also simmer the baby octopus in olive oil, garlic and oregano.. heat up plenty of olive oil then add the octopus (will splutter oil for a while) then lower the heat. .. add crushed garlic and lot’s of oregano, some salt and pepper and simmer for an hour. this will definitely make the octopus tender.


    grill them to give a smoky flavor…makes good salad with US tomatoes and kalamata olives.


    Apr 9, 2010 | 1:06 pm

  8. dragon says:

    Like squid, you either cook quickly or very long. Other tricks I’ve heard here: slap the raw babies against a slab (works with the big ones too – aggression release tactics!) and definitely freezing them would tenderize (but you lose the sweetness and freshness).

    Apr 9, 2010 | 2:26 pm

  9. shep915 says:

    Hi MM, This may add some insights to next your octopus recipe. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/dining/05curious.html

    Apr 9, 2010 | 3:33 pm

  10. Footloose says:

    They are eye-catching. That’s why I know once you become confident with the plural you will be tempted to cook more of them but beware, it can turn you to an octogenarian, that’s just like vegetarian but loves eating octopus.

    Apr 9, 2010 | 6:06 pm

  11. natie says:

    hi, MM! does this mean your computer ”is back”???

    Apr 9, 2010 | 6:24 pm

  12. chefyoji says:

    Hi Marketman, perhaps it was a little tough because of the lemon juice. Acid cooks the raw seafood and makes them tough. Normally, lemon juice (or any acidic ingredients) is used when the seafood is already cooked.

    Anyway, they look great.

    Apr 9, 2010 | 7:41 pm

  13. Lava Bien says:

    I love them little pulpito! Shrimp cocktail with little octupus and some oysters in Acapulco, Mexico or in Jalisco, Mexico. Man o man, it’s living life. Have a taste people.

    Apr 9, 2010 | 7:54 pm

  14. elmo says:

    Hi MM, I was able to watch a “Good Eats” episode where Alton Brown’s topic was squid. It seems that squid,when simmered, goes from tender to tough to tender again. I assume the same priciple would apply to octopus.I believe the episode is available on youtube.hope it helps!

    Apr 9, 2010 | 9:11 pm

  15. Mom-Friday says:

    Beautiful dish! I assume they taste the same as squid?

    Apr 9, 2010 | 9:25 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    shep915, thanks for that link, it is a VERY interesting article… and hmmm about the cork… Mom-Friday, yes they taste a bit like squid but with a stronger flavor. Lava Bien, yes, they are good with shrimp, I had a recipe for that a while back. chefyoji, yes, maybe the lemon did make them tough, however other experts say to add a touch of vinegar to the simmering water, so I would assume that the acid in vinegar would work the same way as lemon… natie, that’s a long story, but these posts are coming from new pictures so far… keep your fingers crossed, it has been a harrowing few days technology wise. footloose, hahaha, I will never be confident with the plural, even after reading the NYTimes article in the link… dragon, yes, you can beat them, I did that with a bigger specimen a few months ago. Alternatively, the next recipe had them perfectly moist and tender… enteng, slow deep fry for an hour? wow, I would never have thought to try that approach… joyce, same camera. Sometimes outdoor lighting just works so nicely on food shots. Bubut, I think it is possible to grill straight away, but I was worried they would be dry and tough that way. Lee, you have that right, these were grilled in Cebu… :) Connie C, more likely boiled a little less than ideal. Also, not sure if the boil then grill approach was so smart, but it worked before for large octopuses… millet, real cork only. I opened a cheap bottle of wine for the next octopus dish but it had a screw-top with no cork… :)

    Apr 9, 2010 | 9:40 pm

  17. millet says:

    lee, yes, don’t we remember that grill..i can still see them full of prawns and corn!

    Apr 9, 2010 | 10:06 pm

  18. Candygirl says:

    Alba’s serves this spicy octopus tapas….it’s very tender. I wonder how they cook it.

    Apr 9, 2010 | 11:05 pm

  19. EJ says:

    Candygirl, maybe you’re referring to pulpo a la Gallega/pulpo Gallego? Its main spice is sweet paprika. Although Galician in origin, it seems to be popular all over Spain, especially in the coastal areas. Recipes are available in general Spanish cookbooks and cookery sites.

    Apr 10, 2010 | 4:34 am

  20. barang says:

    Speaking of corks, a Portugues lady told me that when you are frying and the oil is bubbling and threatening to overflow (like when you fry empanada) just float a cork and the oil will temper itself! Don’t ask me why!

    Apr 10, 2010 | 5:35 am

  21. Betchay says:

    Lovely!They look like prehistoric flowers in bloom!

    Apr 10, 2010 | 8:11 am

  22. ian says:

    Dear MM,
    I love your Blog. I currently work at a 2 michelin star restaurant in Paris but before I worked in NYC. One recipe we had was a braised carpaccio of octopus. all the octopus are bought to a boil, then the water is thrown out then refilled with cold water, white wine, carrots, leeks, onions, celery, fennel, pepperorns, thyme, bay leaf, etc (and the cork too!) after a few hours once the octupus is very tender all the tenteles are removed they are placed in plastic wrap and rolled into a torchon and plaed in the refigerator for a couple of hours. The natural gellatin of the octopus will set. Its slied into disk and garnished with market vegetables. its a beautiful recipe. I will have this dish when i open my restaurant in 2011. More power to you and your blog!

    Apr 11, 2010 | 10:39 pm

  23. Marketman says:

    Ian, where are you planning to open your restaurant? In France or Manila, if the latter, I am so there to taste that amazing sounding dish…

    Apr 12, 2010 | 7:01 am

  24. ian says:

    Manila definetely… either makati or the fort. I hope to see u there.

    Apr 13, 2010 | 6:02 am

  25. tasty says:

    So simple and so delicious! I’ve never thought you can just grill them and serve with tomatoes.

    Apr 14, 2010 | 5:21 pm

  26. jc says:

    mmmmm…the grill is too big for those baby octopus,can you slow down the fire please??hahaha..baka masunog…ang hirap pa naman linisin ng grill na yan..

    Jun 13, 2010 | 9:18 pm


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