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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and agave. Set the stir-fry sauce aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve with steamed rice and cilantro.