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Nakji Bokkeum, Spicy Stir-fired Small Octopus

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (7 votes)
Average: 3 (1 vote)
prep time: 
25 min
inactive time: 
0 min
cooking time: 
15 min
total time: 
40 min

Nakji Bokkeum is my ultimate favorite dish in Korean cuisine. It creates a perfect harmony out of the two things I love most, seafood and spiciness. You must try this!

You can use the same recipe with squid, octopus (larger), baby octopus (jookoomi in Korean) and shrimp. See tips below for ingredient variations.

Buy Korean ingredients online here.

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Change to: Metric US
Nakji, Small Octopus 낙지
Onion (Medium) 양파
5 ozCarrot (large Korean carrot) 당근 (1 large Korean carrot is about 11oz / 300g)
Green Chili Pepper 풋고추
2 tbsGarlic (minced) 다진 마늘
2 tbsGochugaru, Korean Hot Pepper Flakes 고추가루
1 tbsSesame Oil 참기름
1 tbsSugar 설탕
1 tbsSoy Sauce for Soup (Gukganjang) 국간장
½ tspBlack Pepper 후추
1 tspSesame Seeds 깨
1 tbsShrimp Fish Sauce (Sae Woo Jeot) 새우젓
1 tbsMul Yeot / Malt (Maltose) Syrup 물엿

Optional Ingredients
Mul Yeot: If you don't have it, add 1/2 tbs of ADDITIONAL sugar instead.
Shrimp fish sauce (sae woo jeot): it's a really nice touch but you can get away without it. But, if you don't use it, make sure you season it with salt.
Soy sauce for soup (gook-gan-jang): If you don't have it, season with salt.
Sesame seeds: you can omit this if you have sesame oil.
Carrot: you can omit it.

You can also add glass noodles in the dish. Cook glass noodles in boiling water, wash and drain completely. Add the noodles 1 min before the dish is done. Don't add too much because it will soak up all the seasoning.

You can substitute shrimp fish sauce with anchovy fish sauce or kanari fish sauce, OR use a combination of these.

Good to know
To make the nakji not too chewy, the key is to stir-fry them quickly and add them back later.

This dish is best with these simple vegetables. While adding other vegetables is fine, it may overpower the flavor of the nakji.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use any other seafoods?
Yes, you can use the recipe for squid, octopus, baby octopus, shrimp, etc. Although it will still be good, remember that it will taste different than when using just nakji.

Can I use gochujang (korean red chili paste) instead of gochugaru (korean red chili flakes?
Some recipes call for gochujang (red chili paste) but in my opinion it's much better to make it with just gochugaru (red chili pepper flakes). It will give a cleaner taste and bring out the flavor of nakji much better.

Mine turned out too watery and bland. What's wrong?
If you use frozen nakji without thawing or if you don't drain water completely after washing nakji, the water will come out as you cook and it will ruin your dish. Also, if you cook on low heat OR stop in the middle of cooking and resume, this can happen to. So, cook on high heat just before eating.

If you are cooking a large amount of nakji in one pan, it can get watery. For best results, don't cook more than 3 nakji in one pan especially if you don't have a gas stove.

If you have too many vegetables, it may become watery and bland.

How do I store leftovers?
It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. If you freeze it as soon as it cools down, it can last for a couple of months. Seal it tightly so you don't get freezer burns. You can thaw it in the fridge and reheat quickly in a pan or defrost it in the microwave. It will taste okay but may be more chewy because it will be overcooked at this point.

More questions? Please leave your questions below in the comment section. We will do our best to answer as soon as we can.

Ingredient amounts in the recipe instructions are for the default serving size.
Click to enlarge photos.
Ingredient amounts in the recipe summary are for the default serving size.

1. Prepare nakji

Soak nakji in cold salted water if it’s frozen until it’s thawed. It may take a few hours if it’s really frozen. If you are really in a hurry you can use warm water or defrost in microwave, but be careful that it doesn’t start getting cooked.

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Thaw in cold salted water

2. Clean

In a bowl, place nakji without water and 1 tablespoon of salt (coarse salt is better) and 2 tablespoons of flour (optional). Clean the nakji by massaging it for a few minutes.

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Clean nakji with

  • 1 tbs salt
  • 2 tbs flour

3. Wash

Wash thoroughly in cold water twice.

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  • cold water
  • twice

4. Gut

Using a knife or scissors, cut open the head starting from the bottom opening of the head.

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Cut open head

5. Remove organs

Remove all inner organs.

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Remove organs

6. Remove eyes

Remove eyes using scissors.

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Remove eyes

7. Remove

Remove the round black ball under the arms using scissors.

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8. Rinse

Rinse in cold running water twice and drain the water completely.

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  • cold water
  • twice

Drain completely

9. Cut

Cut nakji into bite sizes.

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Cut into bite size

10. Prepare vegetables

Peel, wash and slice vegetables. Mince garlic.

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Peel, wash, slice vegetables

Mince garlic

11. Make seasoning

Make seasoning with 2 tablespoons of gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes. *Use 3 tablespoons if you like really spicy food.), 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of mulyut (Korean malt syrup - OPTIONAL), 1 tablespoon of shrimp fish sauce (OPTIONAL), 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for soup (OPTIONAL), 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, a pinch of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.

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Make seasoning

  • 2 tbs of gochugaru
  • 1 tbs of sugar
  • 1 tbs mulyeot
  • 1 tbs of shrimp fish sauce
  • 1 tbs of soy sauce for soup
  • 1 tbs of sesame oil,
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 2 tbs minced garlic

12. Sauté Nakji

Coat a pan with vegetable oil and preheat on high heat for 30 seconds. Sauté Nakji on high heat for 1 min or until its color starts to turn purply brown. Transfer into a big bowl. Remember to save the juice too!

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Preheat a pan

  • oil
  • High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

Sauté naji

High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

Transfer nakji & juice

13. Sauté vegetables

Sauté carrots for 1 min on high heat. Add onions and cook for another minute. Add green onions and green chili peppers and cook for another 3-5 min.

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Sauté carrots

  • High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

Add onions

  • High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

Add green onions & green chili peppers

  • High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 3 min

14. Add nakji and seasoning

Add Nakji and its juice back into the pan. Add seasoning and cook for another 3 min on high heat. If you used fish sauce and soy sauce, most likely you won’t need additional salt. But, it may vary depending on the amount of vegetables and the size of nakji. So taste it and add some salt if necessary. Sea salt always tastes better than table salt as long as it can be evenly dissolved into the dish.

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  • nakji & juice
  • seasoning

High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 3 min

15. Serve

Serve on a plate. Sprinkle with ground sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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Serve on plate

Sprinkle sesame seeds