This little appetizer dish of Spicy Fried Baby Octopus incorporates chili, cumin, and a little thyme into the deep-fry coating of cornstarch. When jazzed up this way, the tender morsels require no additional condiments at the table other than just a wee squeeze of lemon.
The little guys seen here are about 4 inches (12cm) in length and just small enough where they can be cooked and eaten in one bite as long as you cut away the mantles and just use the tentacle portions (the ‘mantles’ are the bits that look like the ‘head’ in the above picture and, once removed, can be used in other recipes).
If you are not especially familiar with Octopuses, or their anatomy, you may want to check out my short introduction in How to Prepare Octopus.
You can certainly marinate your octopus before cooking, as seen in Ginger Fried Baby Octopus, but you will often find that imparting additional flavorings to octopus is more effective when they are included in a deep-fry coating rather than a marinade.
Cornstarch makes for a nice crispy coating, although regular flour can also be used, and you simply need to stir in your choice of seasonings before tossing the octopus pieces before frying.
For this recipe, only a third of a cup of cornstarch was used and the seasoning added consisted of ½ teaspoon each of crushed chili flakes and ground cumin seed, along with one pinch each of dried thyme and white pepper, and a double pinch of garlic salt.
After dusting the whole octopuses, they can be deep-fried over a medium flame. If you are cooking a large number, work in batches and just do a few at a time so as not to drop the oil temperature too much. They should fry for about 5 minutes or so the first time, and then be removed from the oil and drained. Once all have been cooked, you can deep-fry them a second time in one batch for a minute or to get them all crispy and golden.
Serve while piping hot.