January 9, 2015

Boiled Fresh Octopus 白灼新鮮八爪魚

Boiled, Fresh, Octopus, recipe, chinese, live, 白灼, 新鮮, 八爪魚, 章魚

Have you ever seen a live octopus up close?  Beautifully sinuous creatures in constant fascinating motion, their suction cups giving off a rapid fire pop, pop, pop as they propel themselves all over the place with ease.  

At the wet market seafood section the other day one of the fish vendors had a basketful of live octopus.  We stopped to watch the feisty boneless creatures writhe this way and that for a long while, my little girl was just fascinated!  In the end, of course, we ended up taking one of the octopus home!  

We made the simplest and best dish one can make with super duper fresh octopus: Boiled Fresh Octopus 白灼新鮮八爪魚 served simply with a soy sauce and wasabi dip.  So fresh and yummilicious!

Boiled, Fresh, Octopus, recipe, chinese, live, 白灼, 新鮮, 八爪魚, 章魚

The kinda weird thing about buying live octopus is that even after the fish vendor separates and guts the body of eight arms from the head, the arms still move!  I mean really move, exactly as they were moving when the ol' octopus head was still attached!

The lady ahead of us in line discovered this fact only after she paid for the octopus (Ahhhh!  It's still MOVING!) and we watched in amusement as she desperately implored the fish vendor to somehow make the arms stop moving.  (Please, just chop them some more or something!)  Poor lady she looked so frantic!  

As for me, I solved that squiggly problem just like that: I just made my 老公 carry the bag of octopus!

Once home we were able to indulge my little girl with a close up interactive session with the still very lively octopus.  We just put it in a big bowl and let her feel and observe by herself.  At first she was very squeamish but soon she was really enjoying the experience!  It's a weird feeling, the soft sucking and popping of the tentacles as the octopus moves.  And what a great way to learn a bit about the world under the sea!

Boiled, Fresh, Octopus, recipe, chinese, live, 白灼, 新鮮, 八爪魚, 章魚

I find that much of the time the best way to cook really fresh seafood is the simplest way.  It doesn't sound glamorous to 'boil' something does it?  It sounds boring and primitive almost.

But certain seafood like crab, lobster and of course, the octopus, really do best by being boiled.  Nothing but the heat imparted from the water interacts with your lovely fresh sea sweet meat.  

The key of course is in the length of time that you boil and with the octopus this is really the only factor that you need to really keep a sharp observant eye on.  Boil too long and you'll be chewing that tentacle til next week.  Boil too little and you'll end up with something close to sashimi (which is not a bad thing at all!)

Boiled, Fresh, Octopus, recipe, chinese, live, 白灼, 新鮮, 八爪魚, 章魚

Cooking tips: I think that the boiling window for your fresh octopus will be anywhere from 15 minutes to 5 minutes for an octopus of similar size to ours which was a bit over one foot long.  Fifteen minutes is what was recommended by our fish vendor and will probably give you a well cooked but still tender octopus.  

Five minutes is how long we actually cooked and this gave us octopus cooked more on the rare side: the outer layer cooked crunchy but sashimi soft for the inner bits.  It really depends on your preference!  Of course please adjust the cooking time if your octopus is smaller or larger.

How long do you like to cook your fresh octopus for?
Boiled Fresh Octopus Recipe

(Prep time: 5 mins  Cook time: 5 mins)



Separate the head from the tentacles if your fish guy hasn't done it yet.  Remove the eyes, teeth, cartilage spine and whatever else that is in the octopus head.  Rinse your octopus in running water for a minute.  DO NOT cut up the octopus now.  Cook first and slice it up later.

In a large pot, heat enough water to cover the octopus by an inch or so.  When the water boils add the octopus.  When the water reboils, cover and cook 5-15 minutes according to your preference.  (See cooking tips above.)

Remove from water immediately and let cool completely.  Slice tentacles at an angle into 1/4" thick slices and the head meat into neat strips with a good sharp sashimi knife (if you have one.)

Arrange nicely on plate and serve with a dip of your best soy sauce with a dash of wasabi!



  1. I remember decades ago in (Kowloon) Hong Kong the street vendor served the sliced octopus on a wooden stick. Sweet childhood memories.

  2. My 媽媽 told me stories of her youth (in Taiwan) where hawkers would serve grilled octopus on a stick in front of the movie theatres, to be enjoyed before and after the show. The aroma of grilling octopus apparently was irresistible. I believe theatres in HK had similar such hawker activity? Anyways I wish they would still do it these days, octopus is such a great street snack!