On The Menu: From Spicy Octopus Salad to Octopus with Squid Ink Crisp

Of all the seafood consumed in western cuisine, octopus has gotten a bad rap. And not surprisingly either; the octopus holds a great deal of mysticism for many of us. It is undoubtedly one of the more mysterious creatures of the sea (their ancestors date back over 200 million years).

And along with its prehistoric features (having eight arms, three hearts, no internal skeleton, and the ability to change colours and expulse ink in times of retreat) octopi are not the easiest to work with in the kitchen. Nonetheless, for many cultures around the world, octopus has long been regarded as a delicacy. Mediterranean, Italian and Japanese cooks, for instance, favour having it on the menu. Recently however, as the west coast consumer focuses more on eating sustainably, octopus has been finding its place on to the plate.

As a highly nutritious and locally sourced product, you can expect to see octopus surfacing in restaurants more often. Chefs are getting bold with it too — long gone is the classic “calamari” style, slathered in flour and deep fried. Instead, octopus is now being served marinated in salads, confit dressed, char grilled, in pasta, or in risotto.

Being a by-catch of spot prawn fishing, the Pacific octopus is a hit or miss food. It all depends on whether they happen to be in the area at the time when prawn season takes place (May-June). Fortunately, octopus freezes well and freezing increases the tenderness. Even still, it’s an unpredictable catch so look for it year round (if available) in these following locations:


Where to buy octopus:

Cowichan Bay Seafood
Satellite Fish
Fairways (not local)

Find it on the Menu:

Stage Wine Bar: Stage creates a delicate Octopus and Tuna Antipasti for the summer season. It’s prepared confit style and served with arugula, roasted peppers, white beans, shaved red onions in a preserved lemon vinaigrette for $12.75.


Chef Sam says “Guests are embracing the octopus. Ten years ago people wouldn’t go there. Nowadays, people are discovering local food is extremely delicious.”

Foo Asian Food: Foo has had the Octopus Salad on their menu since day one. It’s sweet and spicy, fresh and full of flavour. Braised and slowly simmered until tender flash fried and dressed in a sweet chili glaze and served with thai basil, cilantro, lettuce, bean sprouts in a lime chili dressing. $11

Ulla: Ulla offers a gorgeous Giant Pacific Octopus Salad prepared with grilled potatoes, charred pickled jalapenos, roasted peppers in a charred yogurt and arugula herb puree, finished with a squid ink crisp. $14

How to prepare octopus:

Chef Brad from Ulla showed me how he’s been cooking octopus on his menu:
From the freezer (purchased from Finest at Sea), it’s lightly blanched and then added to the pressure cooker with a basic mirepoix (celery, onions, carrots), brought to a boil and set to a full pressure for 20 minutes. The hood of the octopus is salted, sugared and smoked into “bacon.” After the pressure cooker the octopus is sliced thin, brushed with olive oil and placed on the grill for about 3 minutes a side and then it’s ready to plate.

“Octopus is truly a world class product” says Brad. If you want to try something new, best to try octopus at a restaurant first. Always trust the chef. You’re not going to end up with anything chewy and unpalatable [at Ulla]. This is a composed, light octopus dish, perfect as a starter to your meal. Octopus is a great local product that truly expresses the full spectrum of the ocean,” says Brad.

Thus, despite its primitive features and particular cooking requirements, when handled correctly and cooked just right, octopus is a highly flavourful, delicate and tender food. Support your local economy. Eat an octopus.

Sidebar: Octopus nutrition facts (http://nutrition.indobase.com/articles/octopus-nutrition.php)

Written By:

Holly Brooke is a true B.C. gal. Having lived on the west coast most of her life, except for several years in the Kootenay's where she canoed and fished and lived in a tipi, she's very much at home outdoors and in the kitchen. ...

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