This was only the second time I saw raw wild caught baby octopus or "Iidako" 飯蛸 in the market and I bought them without hesitation. Although I call it "baby" octopus, it is not a baby or even the young of a large octopus species but just a variety of small octopus. We happened to stop by this market after work on the way home since we had some business to take care of at a near-by location. The last time I found small or baby octopus was at the same market. At that time, I posted grilled baby octopus which was good but a bit on the chewy side. To avoid letting squid or octopus get chewy, I need to cook it either very quickly or for a very long time. Since this was a weekday evening and I didn’t think they would last until the weekend, I did not have much time and I chose the quick approach.
Pictures of the baby octopus, raw, are shown below. (1 lb of which is more than enough for 2 servings as an appetizer). Luckily they were already cleaned and the "beaks" removed (It was a good thing. See this post - in Japanese- to learn how to clean it). After I salted and "kneaded" them in a bowl, I washed them several times with cold running water. Since the first picture (#1) does not show the individual octopus well, I fished one out and placed placed it on top for its portrait (#2). This was one of the larger specimens.
I first parboiled the octopus in rapidly boiling water with a dash of sake (to reduce the "fishy" odor) for 30 seconds (#3). I drained them and cut the larger ones in half or quarters and left the small ones whole. I set them aside.
I melted butter (2 tbs, unsalted) on medium heat and when the butter melted added finely chopped garlic (2 fat cloves). I sautéed for 1 minutes or so until the garlic was fragrant but not browned. I increased the heat and added the parboiled octopus and quickly sautéed for 30-40 seconds and added chopped scallions (3 stalks). I finished the dish with a soy sauce (1/2 tbs) and mirin (1/2 tbs) and cut the heat (#4).
I served them with a sprinkling of Japanese red pepper flakes or ichimi tougarashi 一味唐辛子 (the first picture). This time, the octopus were not tough or chewy at all. They were plump and pleasantly springy in texture which was very nice. They were remarkably fresh and the combinations of butter, garlic and soy sauce cannot go wrong. The mirin added just a slight sweetness to round up the dish. This was a perfect small dish for sake and we had new G-sake from SakeOne with this dish.