Octopus is considered a delicacy in Korea, Japan, and Mediterranean countries. Its flavor lies in its cooking method which can be anything from chewy and mild like squid to smokey and dense like pork ribs.
The flavor of cooked octopus is similar to that of pork or chicken but more moist and light. Octopus has a dense and firm texture when cooked thoroughly and is especially meaty in flavor when smoked. Boiled octopus is similar to squid with a subtle, slightly salty flavor and chewy bite.
What Is the Texture of Octopus
The texture of octopus varies greatly by its cooking method. Below are a few common cooking methods and how they change the texture of the octopus
Boiled octopus is similar in flavor to raw octopus without the toughness. Boiled octopus has a flavor and aroma similar to shellfish. It’s very subtle with a slight bit of saltiness and umami that may take some experience to thoroughly detect.
Smoked octopus is commonly found in Hawaiian poke where it’s served over sour sushi rice. Talking about sushi, ever wondered what does eel tastes like?. Smoked octopus is very dense in texture but not chewy, the bite is like a cross between an avocado and a medium-well steak. Smoked octopus has a barbeque-like flavor and tends to take on the aroma of the wood that it’s smoked with.
Baked octopus has a texture similar to that of lobster. It’s soft and easy to chew but still has a slight bit of resistance. The flavor is very rich in umami and similar to pork or chicken.
Deep-fried octopus is very similar to calamari. If tenderized and fried properly, it has a soft yet rubbery texture with a firm bite that contrasts perfectly against the flakey, golden fried batter. The flavor is savory and fatty with a slight bit of fishiness to it.
What Does Octopus Smell Like
The aroma of fresh octopus shouldn’t smell like anything at all if it’s fresh unless it’s directly out of the ocean, in which case it will have a strong salty aroma. If it’s gone bad, it will start to smell fishy and similar to ammonia if left for a long time.
Cooked octopus smells like its preparation method and the seasonings used to cook it. Without seasoning, fried octopus will smell oily and similar to calamari or french fries, smoked octopus will smell like barbeque, and baked octopus will smell similar to roasted chicken.
Boiled octopus shouldn’t smell of anything other than a slight salty aroma, especially if it’s fresh-caught.
Dishes Including Octopus
Octopus can be used in a variety of dishes with a variety of cooking methods to change its flavor. Think of it similarly to using white meat like chicken or pork in a dish. Especially the taste of spam is similar.. Below are some common dishes using octopus with a wide array of flavors.
- Octopus with Chorizo and Potatoes: Smoked sausage and buttery potatoes combined with baked octopus make for a classic, spicy Mediterranean meal.
- Grilled Octopus with Ancho Chile Sauce: After being braised in sherry, the skin of the octopus is removed to make it extra tender before it’s grilled and glazed with a tangy chile sauce.
- Octopus with Black Bean Pear Sauce: Salty fermented black beans and sweet pear combine with the umami of boiled octopus for an unexpected fusion of flavors.
- Red-Wine Braised Octopus with Black Olives: Braised until tender in red wine, the octopus is simmered in a robust, rich sauce that compliments the savory flavor of black olives.
- Pan-Seared Octopus with Italian Vegetable Salad: White wine is used to braise the octopus in this dish until it’s tender. It’s then tossed with a tangy mix of fennel, carrots, chickpeas, and celery and pan-seared to perfection. A side of fresh, crunchy salad gives this dish its iconic Italian flair.
Octopus is an incredibly versatile food that can take on many flavors. It can be boiled for a slightly salty and subtle flavor, smoked for a dense texture and smokey flavor, baked for a more common white meat flavor similar to chicken or pork, or even deep-fried for a crunchy snack.