Octopus might seem like a strange, exotic, and even frightening dish to many, but for Greeks, it is a simple and unassuming part of their usual cuisine. A staple in many traditional Greek seaside taverns, grilled octopus has been a prominent feature in Greek cuisine ever since the ancient times.
If you were to go to one of the Greek islands today, you’d probably see octopus offered on the menus of these taverns, and you might even see a few octopi hanging out to dry on a clothesline, suspended by their tentacles.
On the islands where the octopus is freshly caught, taverns will often hang their octopus out to dry. It’s important to hang the fresh catch to dry because, according to Greek-Canadian food writer Peter Minakis, octopus are mostly made of water. “If one were to throw an octopus from sea to grill,” he explains, “all that water in the octopus would simply steam it into a rubbery mass.”
The practice of hanging octopus out to dry came from the ancient times. In ancient Greece, when there weren’t freezers, people would sun the octopus for days until it was small and could fit inside a small carafe. Then it would expand to its original size when it was cooked.
Grilled octopus has been described as sweet, succulent, and juicy, with a rich flavor and slightly chewy, slightly crunchy texture. When properly prepared, octopus is fairly similar in texture to lobster. Octopus is even more tender than squid. It has a light taste that some have compared to chicken or pork.
Furthermore, octopus is also incredibly healthy. It is a low-calorie protein source that is both nutritious and filling. It is low in fat, but high in iron. It also contains selenium, an antioxidant that can help you metabolize protein. Octopus also contains vitamin B-12, which aids in the production of red blood cells.
If you’re curious about trying grilled octopus, you don’t need to go all the way to Greece in order to try this traditional Greek delicacy. You can come to Nerai, which is conveniently located in Midtown, where our grilled octopus is sure to please your palate.
At Nerai, our octopus comes from Spain. The octopus is braised with red onion, red wine vinegar, fennel seeds, juniper berries, bay leafs, extra virgin olive oil, and pink, white, and black peppercorns. And then the octopus is grilled gently and served over a fava puree made with yellow split peas, carrots, red onion, garlic, bay leafs, rosemary, and lemon zest.
Our grilled octopus is then topped with a delicious relish made out of capers, lemon, red onion, red bell peppers, chives, and red wine vinegar, and as a finishing touch, it is garnished with watercress, frisee greens, and crispy fava.
Enjoy this scrumptious and healthy Greek delicacy at Nerai today. Make a reservation here.