Recipe: Jukkumi sukhoe (parboiled webfoot octopus)

Sukhoe (숙회) refers to a dish of meat, fish or vegetables that are gently parboiled.  If you are not a huge fan of hoe (회, raw fish), this simple technique firms up the flesh just enough without the risk of overcooking. It’s often used for squid, octopi and other cephalopods—and in spring, one of the best tentacled creatures to eat is jukkumi (주꾸미, webfoot octopus). A note on pronunciation: The official Romanization of 회 is “hoe,” which is pronounced “hwae.”

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ingredients:

5 jukkumi (webfoot octopus)

1/2 cup flour or rough sea salt for cleaning

water for blanching

Opened egg sac
Opened egg sac

Cleaning out the innards is entirely optional—you can enjoy deeper flavors if you leave the head as-is and just cook and eat it after cleaning with water. However, if you want to clean out the guts and also make the octopus roe flower (a slightly-opened egg sac looks like a chrysanthemum when boiled), you’ll need a pair of scissors and a chef’s knife.

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1. Break down your jukkumi: First, lift up the fold at the base of the head and snip the connective tissues there.

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You can flip the head inside out at this stage if you want to keep the head shape, but if you don’t mind cutting it, you can continue to cut the head upwards using scissors.

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Lay open the head and very gently separate the egg sac (it looks like a white chicken egg yolk), setting it aside. Remove and discard the other innards—it’s always easier if you manage to avoid breaking open the ink sac.

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Remove the eyes.

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On the underside where the legs meet the body, there is a small, hard beak. Press down hard on either side with your thumbs and it will pop out.

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2. Clean your jukkumi: Place the body and head in a mixing bowl. Using flour or rough sea salt, massage them vigorously if you’ve opened the head. If not, massage gently so the egg sac and ink sac don’t break.

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Rinse with cold water until the water in your bowl is clear. Check for traces of mud on the suckers

and repeat until all the legs are completely clean.

3. Put enough water to submerge the octopi into a pot, and bring the water to a boil.

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4. Now it’s time to parboil: The legs should be blanched quickly. Take them out after counting to five, or as soon as the tips of their legs begin to curl up and turn a bright brown color. If you cook them any longer than this, the flesh easily becomes rubbery. If you are eating the whole head without gutting it, you’ll have to let it cook a little longer, or the roe inside will not be fully cooked. If you are eating the roe separately, make a small cut or tear in the egg sac and let a little bit of the roe come out before blanching.

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This will cook up into a beautiful chrysanthemum-shape. If you don’t tear the egg sac, you’ll just get a plain, hard round egg sac similar to those you find in other fish.

Uncut cooked egg sac
Uncut cooked egg sac

Serve with minari ganghoe (미나리 강회, blanched water dropwort) and chojang (초장, vinegared gochujang).

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