The spicy (Schezuan pepper) and briny (freshly ground salt) flavours partner beautifully with baby octopus.
The baby octopus is gently simmered in water until just tender, drained and then lightly coated in cornflour. The octopus is then quick fried in canola oil (or similar), coated in salt and Schezuan pepper and served. The salt and pepper coating on all those crispy tentacles makes for a delicious mouthful for either a snack or part of a seafood feast.
I prefer to use cornflour (or rice flour) rather than plain flour to coat the baby octopus. When fried, the cornflour gives the baby octopus a lighter crispier coating.
I have added the salt and pepper to the flour in the past but have found that the flavour gets lost. Alternatively, you could use chilli flakes instead of pepper.
Handy Hint: Add wine corks to the water in which you simmer the baby octopus. I have tried simmering baby octopus with corks and without corks and the cork addition definitely gets the thumbs up from me for making the octopus more tender. I am not sure how adding the cork to the water achieves this but it is thought that the enzymes in the cork may play a part in tenderising the octopus.
1 kg baby octopus
1 cup canola oil (or similar), for frying
1 cup cornflour
3-4 tablespoon Schezuan pepper (lightly crushed)
1-2 tablespoons freshly ground salt
The ingredients for the salt and pepper octopus: cornflour, baby octopus, sparkling wine corks (please see handy hints), lightly crushed pepper, and salt.
Simmer the baby octopus in a large pot of water for approximately 30 minutes. Strain the water and place the octopus onto a plate in preparation.
Tumble the octopus through the cornflour to coat. Alternatively, you could put the cornflour into a resealable plastic bag, add the octopus and shake well to coat.
Place half of the flour-coated octopus in the hot oil in the wok. After adding the octopus to the oil, allow the oil to come to temperature again (this will only take a moment). When the oil is hot again, add the remainder of the flour-coated octopus to the wok. Fry for 1-2 minutes or until the coating is crisp.
Using a slotted spoon, scoop the cooked octopus from the wok.
Generously sprinkle the crushed Szechuan pepper onto the octopus and toss through to ensure it is thoroughly coated.
Generously sprinkle the pepper-coated octopus with freshly ground salt.
Serve the salt and pepper octopus with wedges of freshly cut lime (or lemon).Reads: 256