How to Clean Baby Octopi/Octopuses/Octopodes


While browsing through a Mario Batali cookbook recently, I noticed two recipes for baby octopuses and I was intrigued by his suggestion that the inclusion of a cork in the boiling liquid was a sure-fire way to achieve tender octopodes. Fast forward 3 days later, and while cruising the seafood section of the Carbon market in Cebu, I came upon this bounty of baby octopi/octopuses/octopodes (yes, all three are correct). I was amused and smiled at the coincidence, so I decided to buy some…


In the 5+ years that I have maintained this blog, I don’t think I have come across this many baby octopodes at one vendor. I am not sure if baby octopi swim in schools somehow and these were caught in one net, or if they are collected from shallow waters from under rocks and corals. Marketman aside… I was so curious if eating these babies was evil, so I found this link which is ABSOLUTELY worth the read. I learned a LOT in 2 minutes. How to distinguish a male from a female. How the female holes up under rocks to lay with eggs and babies for months, and dies after it gives birth. That the average litter size of that species of octopus is 70,000(!) babies that are perfectly beautiful when born. And that out of all of those, only 2 will likely survive to adulthood, as some 69,998 of them will be munched on by fish, other sea critters and some by humans…


AT PHP90 a kilo, I thought these were a steal. And since I had never cooked them before, I decided to buy two kilos to experiment with. And the lady vendor was kind enough to pick through all the contents of her blue plastic pail to get all the smallest octopodes for me. I do have a couple of posts on “pre-teen” or maybe “single-digit” octopodes and octopode dishes, here and here.


Now, how to clean the octopi. I had NO CLUE. So I decided to photograph Victor cleaning them instead. :) Yup, I don’t HAVE to do everything myself, it’s a huge plus of living with wonderful crew, for two of whom a birthday feast was being prepared, with octopode experiments as part of the menu. Take a small sharp knife and cut a slit in the bulbous octopus head…


Locate the brains, guts, ink sac of the octopuses and gently but firmly tug on it until the connective tissue/muscle gives or tears. Discard the muck. Rinse the octopi and either keep them whole, as we did, or sever them into pieces. Some recipes only call for using the tentacles, but I find it wasteful not to use the heads.


Up soon, a couple of recipes using the baby octopuses…


12 Responses

  1. I don’t quite remember the show, but I remember this one sushi chef slam a slice of tentacle. It puffed up a bit and then was served nigiri-style. That was interesting. In Hawai’i this is served as an appetizer in Japanese, Korean, or local style. All wonderful!

  2. what a coincidence..had some korean soup with octopus last night. thanks for showing how to clean them. have been tempted a couple of times to buy in the market but i never knew how to clean them..but now i think i do. excited to know what you did with them, MM. fried in olive oil with lots of garlic, i think!

  3. I saw an old Iron Chef episode where they include the cork when they boiled the Octopus (they were using the really gigantic octopus in that episode too). The interpreter said that it helps in softening it. =)

  4. With the huge Greek community here in Melbourne (used to be the biggest Greek population outside of Greece – used to be), baby octopus is huge here. Having Greek “wog” in laws have exposed me a few delightful edibles. At the local Costco here, the inlaw made me try pickled baby octopus (which they said was a very good buy @$20/k and it lasts months, if at all). It wasn’t actually bad but not the best either – the octopus was tender, juicy and tasty but there was a missing depth of flavor.

    For the definition of wogs in Australia (don’t look at the universal definition coz Aussies don’t like it):

  5. Marinate the baby octopi in garlic,parsley,lemon, pepper ,salt and grill them .!Yum

  6. Marketman, try deepfried baby octopus the next time you’re in Singapore. Quite sweet, almost covered in syrup, yet delicious!

  7. In Korea, raw octopus tentacles are served so fresh that the tentacles are still squirming as you swallow, and rarely, surgical intervention is required when the tentacle grabs some part of your anatomy.

  8. these could be baby octopi, or possibly a species that just stays small. many do, you know…

  9. just stir-fry it with sweet chilli sauce and few pieces of skinned prawns, some fresh vege salad with lots and lots of fresh onions, and steamed rice tsibog na….!

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