Our recipes and stories, delivered.

By clicking Go, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Penguin Random House Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and agree to receive news and updates from TASTE and Penguin Random House.

Pulpo Kung Pao
Ingredients
Directions
FOR THE OCTOPUS
2 lb
octopus, cleaned, head and tentacles separated
Jump
½ tsp
Morton kosher salt
Jump
1 tbsp
cornstarch
Jump
1 tbsp
Mexican-style pale lager beer, Shaoxing wine, sake, or mirin
Jump
1 tbsp
soy sauce
Jump
FOR THE STIR-FRY
3 tbsp
seasoned rice vinegar
Jump
2 tbsp
soy sauce, plus more to taste
Jump
2 tsp
agave syrup or honey
Jump
½ c
unsalted roasted peanuts
Jump
4 tbsp
rendered lard or vegetable oil, divided
Jump
1 md
chile poblano, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Jump
8-15
chiles de árbol, Thai bird chiles, or 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
Jump
4 lg
scallions, ends trimmed, coarsely chopped
Jump
2 lg
chiles jalapeños, stemmed and sliced crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rings
Jump
1
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
Jump
3
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Jump
½ tsp
Sichuan peppercorns or cracked black peppercorns
Jump
FOR SERVING
Steamed rice
Jump
Cilantro leaves and tender stems
Jump
Pulpo Kung Pao

This dish frankly blew my mind when I first tasted it. I love octopus so much and thought that grilled octopus was the only way I wanted to eat it. That was before I went to Mexicali and ate my way through the Chinese- Mexican neighborhoods. Spicy kung pao chicken was my first taste of Chinese flavors when I was a boy in Texas and was what I ordered every time we went to a Chinese restaurant. I still have a great affinity for the flavors and textures in this dish, and when I saw it on the menu but with pulpo, I had to have it. The velvety sauce grabs hold of the pulpo and won’t let go. And every bite is meaty, sweet, and spicy.

4 servings

PREPARE THE OCTOPUS
  1. In a large heavy pot, combine the octopus, salt, and water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the octopus is very tender and a knife passes through the thickest tentacle with little resistance, for 1 to 1½ hours.
  2. Remove from the heat and let the octopus cool in the liquid, still covered. Using a paper towel, wipe the purple skin off the tentacles, leaving the suckers intact. Cut the tentacles into 1-inch pieces and cut the head into bitesize pieces. Transfer both to a large bowl. Discard the cooking liquid.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, beer, and soy sauce. Pour over the octopus and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
MAKE THE STIR- FRY
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and agave. Set the stir-fry sauce aside.
  2. In a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the peanuts, tossing frequently, until browned in spots, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.
  3. In the same skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the lard. Add the octopus and the marinade clinging to it and cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  4. In the same skillet still over high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons lard. Cook the chile poblano, tossing occasionally, until browned and crisp-tender, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the chiles de árbol, scallions, jalapeños, ginger, garlic, and peppercorns. Cook, tossing frequently, until very fragrant and the chiles de árbol are lightly toasted, for about 1 minute.
  5. Return the octopus to the pan and add the reserved stir-fry sauce and cook, tossing, until the liquid is nearly evaporated and coats the octopus, for about 1 minute more. Add the toasted peanuts and toss to combine. Taste and season lightly with more soy sauce if needed.
  6. Serve with steamed rice and cilantro.