Octopus has a succulence many people stateside aren't too willing to experience. I know, however, if you cover anything in BBQ sauce and grill it, my family won't ask too many questions. This "BBQ" comes directly from Korea, but it still shares many of the hallmarks that American BBQ does: sweet, smoky, spicy, tangy. Wrap it up in cool, crisp lettuce and you have a cookout. The BBQ octopus is delicious on its own, over rice, or as I suggest here: as an entire Korean ssäm; a communal affair with cooked meats, kimchi, lettuce, and rice. —PieceOfLayerCake
Test Kitchen Notes
Tangy and sweet marinated octopus meets its match in the crunchy cucumber slaw and lettuce-leaf wraps! A solid CP. —mitschlag
baby octopus, cleaned
gochujang (red pepper paste)
gochugaru (red pepper powder)
Korean soy sauce
mirin (Japanese rice wine)
light brown sugar
grated or minced garlic
grated fresh ginger
toasted sesame seeds
small seedless cucumbers, sliced thinly
scallions, topped and tailed, sliced thinly
Ssämjang, for serving
2 to 3
large heads butter or red leaf lettuce, leaves separated, chilled
Rinse the octopus under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large bowl.
Combine the gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil in a small cup and pour over the octopus. Toss the octopus well with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
Combine the cucumbers, scallions, salt, and granulated sugar in a small bowl and allow to chill for at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice.
Preheat the grill to medium heat and wipe the grates well with vegetable oil. Sear the octopus for 3 to 4 minutes, turning often. Do not overcook. Overcooked octopus is rubbery and tough. Remove octopus to a platter and garnish with the toasted sesame seeds.
Serve immediately with the cucumber-scallion slaw, ssämjang, lettuce, rice, and kimchi. There is no "right" way to eat a ssäm, but I like to smear a dab of ssämjang on a lettuce leaf, pile on the octopus, some rice, and the slaw. Roll it up like a little package and eat in one huge bite. Kimchi is a lovely "intermezzo," if you will, and essential to every Korean meal. 잘먹겠습니다