For some reason everyone is afraid to grill octopus. Yet, it’s not overly difficult. There is a fine line between cooking and overcooking, but with the tiniest bit of care your pulpo won’t become a rubbery mess. It’s an ideal addition to a seafood barbecue and can be skewered alongside shrimp and tuna. The addition of the Nikkei marinade included below, though not essential, adds a unique, slightly sweet Peruvian accent to the octopus.
Pulpo a la Parilla (Charcoal Grilled Octopus)
1.) Clean octopus by removing brains and innards, nearly all of which are found in the head.
2.) Bring a saucepan of water to a fast boil and add octopus with a pinch of salt, teaspoon of garlic, and squeeze of lemon or lime. Instantly when dropping the octopus in the hot water it will stiffen up. Reduce heat to a slow boil (medium heat) and cover for 30 minutes to an hour until the meat is tender. The time depends on the size of your octopus. I recommend for 1 kilo/2 pounds just thirty minutes, though many opt for longer. Poke with a sharp knife to determine tenderness.
3.) Drain pot and remove octopus. Cut octopus in desire size pieces. The smaller the pieces the less time they require on the grill. I recommend leaving the tentacles whole, so they can stay on the grill longer. Add pieces to marinade (see below) and soak for about an hour. Set aside.
4.) Heat charcoal grill until fire is hot (make sure you can keep your hand over flame for 10 seconds, otherwise it is too hot). Rack should be about 6 inches from flame.
5.) Brush octopus with olive (or Sesame) oil and sprinkle with salt and then add to grill. Only keep on grill for 4-8 minutes, no more. The outside should brown, but you don’t want to dry the insides out.
6.) Garnish with parsley and serve.
Nikkei Marinade (Marinado Nikkei)
-1 tablespoon of Aji Panca Paste
-1 teaspoon of Ajo Molido/Diced Garlic
-1 teaspoon of oregano
-2 tablesppons of white vinegar
-1/2 tablespoon of water
-1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
-1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
-1/2 tablespoon of honey
Makes one liter. This works for fish, beef, or anticuchos too.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.