Squid and Celery in Gochujang Sauce


This may sound strange for some of you, but I was brought up knowing only celeriac, the humble and ugly cousin of the beautiful celery, which I must have discovered around the age of twenty. Contrary to what some people think, celery is unpopular in several European countries and its strong anise aroma is disturbing or even unbearable for those who discover it as adults. Celery is widely available and consumed in my city and I am used to it simmered in soups, stews and other slowly cooked dishes (such as Ragù alla bolognese) where it ends up acting rather as seasoning than a distinct vegetable. I am however completely lost when it comes to keeping the celery crunchy or raw. On the other hand, I appreciate its fresh aroma, its pleasant crunchiness and its beautiful bright colour, hence my recent decision to start cooking it more often.

A couple of days ago, ready to prepare my beloved Korean Squid with Cabbage and Carrot, I changed my mind at last moment and decided to use celery as the sole vegetable. Surprised by the excellent result of what I consider an extremely unusual combination, I have decided to share my discovery with you, even though I realise that my enthusiasm for celery will seem ridiculous to those for who this vegetable has been a boring staple for years.

My impressions of the squid and celery combination are difficult to describe. The first thing I have noticed was the unusual mixture of textures. The crunchy celery and the slightly chewy, soft squid were slightly surprising, but very pleasant. The celery’s anise aroma hasn’t shadowed the delicate squid taste and gave the whole dish a fresh, awakening touch. The hot and sweet sauce (based on gochujang, the famous Korean hot paste) not only supplied a red hue the whole meal cried for, but most of all bound the two completely different ingredients into a coherent whole. This improvised, quick meal was a very welcome touch of spring in the middle of rainy autumn days and has emboldened me to further experiments with celery. I will be grateful for any ideas or recipes  you would like to share with a beginning fan of celery.

If you don’t like celery, but the mention of squid makes you instantly hungry, I strongly recommend the above mentioned Korean Squid with Cabbage and Carrot, my staple and beloved way to serve squid. I must have prepared this stir-fried delight dozens of times since I discovered it on Hyosun’s blog and still am not tired of it. The sauce I have used with celery was inspired by this Korean recipe.

TIPS: If you keep the celery crunchy, make sure you use the younger stalks without “threads” (the thicker ones were not very palatable and I promised myself to use them next time in longer cooked dishes).

If you don’t have gochujang, add more chili powder mixed with one teaspoon syrup or substitute it with Chinese chili paste (the taste and texture will however not be the same because gochujang is unique).

Before I pass to the recipe I would like to express my compassion with all those affected by the hurricane Sandy. I wish you lots of strength and courage and hope that your lives will soon get back to normal.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

2 fresh or thawed, cleaned medium squids (mine were about 15 cm long, excluding the tentacles) 

3 – 4 young celery stalks (or higher, thin parts of thick celery stalks)

2 flat tablespoons Korean chili powder

2 tablespoons oil


1 garlic clove, crushed or grated

2 tablespoons sake

1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)

1 tablespoon maple or agave syrup

1 teaspoon sesame oil

(soy sauce or salt to taste)

1 teaspoon (or more) sesame seeds

Cut off the squid fins and put them aside.

Cut the squid tube lengthwise in order to obtain one flat sheet.

Score it diagonally into a criss-cross pattern (the interior side) and then cut it into 2 cm strips.

Do the same with the fins.

Cut the tentacles into bite-sized pieces.

Cut the celery into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a pan and stir-fry the celery for one minute.

Add the squid and the chili powder and fry them, stirring, for another 2 minutes.

Finally add the sauce ingredients. Season with soy sauce or salt to taste.

Stir-fry until the squid is cooked (about 3-5 minutes). Each strip should be white (whiter than the raw squid), curled and soft, but still slightly chewy.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.


38 Replies to “Squid and Celery in Gochujang Sauce”

  1. My initial reaction was ‘oh no not squid with celery’. But I take your word for it. This is most unusual. I understand that the textures will work well together – but still trying to imagine the flavours. I guess the Korean sauce helps quite a bit

    1. Thanks for your trust, Mr. Three-Cookies. It was risky indeed and I was prepared to throw out the celery keeping only the squid if the taste was bad.

  2. Hi Sissi! I am not surprised with your new found love for celery at all. Growing up I HATED the taste of it, there’s another type of celery, much thinner stalk, my Mom calls it Chinese celery, and my lord those things were pungent! Since we moved to the US, I’ve grown accustomed to the anise taste of celery, in fact I enjoy them raw very much, the refreshing crunch is perfect when we’ve been eating something heavy.

    Below is a recipe I cook regularly with success, it was surprising when I first found it, because I’ve never thought about combining celery with seafood before, though now a days it makes perfect sense. Your squid combo looks wonderful, the red color makes it look gorgeous!

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno. I have heard about the Chinese celery recently and I even think I saw it in my Vietnamese shop… but I haven’t tasted it yet. I totally agree that the fresh celery taste requires certain time to get used to it even for those who like anise aroma (I like it a lot).
      Thank you so much for the recipe. I didn’t follow your blog at the time yet. I will definitely test it soon! Have a lovely weekend too.

  3. Hey Sissi – I just followed the mouth-watering photo from my e-mail and stopped by. The dish of course looks delicious, and I love the fact that you made it simple and interesting with celery. However, it was a total surprise to see my name in the post. You’re awesome! Thank you so much. I sometimes make Korean namul (side dish) with tender parts of celeries. I shred and blanch them. Then season with gochujang, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and a little bit of sugar. Quite crunch and delicious.

    1. Thank you so much, Hyosun. You are my constant inspiration! I use both your hot and mild Korean sauces adding them to many stir-fried dishes. They always give so much flavour! Thank you very much for the recipe. It sounds delicious. I will be making it very soon and will let you know how it went.

  4. You are quite right Sissi, I don’t think the green stalk celery is used even in Hungary; I like to chomp on raw stalks as a low calorie snack. In fact, I have even heard that the energy it takes to eat a celery is actually higher than the calories the celery posses. It’s almost a free snack; we go through about 3 bunches a week! I am quite surprised that your celery has a strong anise flavour — our celery does not. In fact, it’s flavour is very similar to the celeriac or celery root, except not as intense as celeriac. Next time I am in Switzerland, I will try your celery!
    I haven’t cooked squid in a very long time, but I adore it, particularly grilled and I have it often when we dine out. You have once again inspired me to make it. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I have tasted celery in three different countries and it always had an anise aroma. Kiki from Germany confirms it too and Jeno from the US mentions the same anise aroma, so either you have a different variety in Canada or maybe you are so used to celery you hardly notice it 😉 Celeriac (in the three countries I ate it) has a completely different aroma. No anise and it’s rather earthy and “calmer”. It does have a slightly similar effect when simmered in a sauce or stock though.
      I have heard a lot about people having it as a raw snack but I think I’m still not used enough to its anise aroma to have it alone this way.
      I cook squid (most of the time the Korean recipe I linked to because I am addicted to it and it’s always so quick and delicious) at least every other week but sometimes I have squid twice a week.

  5. Oh, this looks so good. Just to my taste. I do like celery very much and anise goes very well with fish. I even like to put a little sip Pastis in fish soup or sauce. Maybe my taste buds are somewhat strange (laugh). Besides I peel thicker celery stalks to get rid of the stringy threads.

    1. Thank you so much, Kiki. I haven’t thought about the anise and fish (I suppose I am such a big fan and frequent eater of squid, I no longer remember it comes from the sea, like the fish…). I once made a whole baked fish with fennel seeds in the belly and it was fantastic. I love Pastis as a drink in the summer (my favourite refreshing alcohol). It also always makes me feel as if I were in the South of France 😉
      Thank you so much for the peeling tip. I am a beginner with celery and would have never thought about it.

  6. Ohhh this looks so good! I love squid (although it doesn’t seem like a popular ingredients according to comments I read on my squid posts), and I never cooked with celery before. My best friend from college introduced me to use celery into stir fries. I cook with chicken or shrimp, but not squid yet. Great dish, Sissi! Hyosan makes great dishes!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. I am addicted to squid! You know it’s funny, but per kilo the frozen squid I buy here is the cheapest edible animal 😉 so I can indulge in it as often as I want. (Actually it was not Hyosun’s recipe, but she is my constant inspiration in Korean cuisine).

  7. This recipe I just have to try as I love squid and use a lot of celery. In Australia methinks it is everybody’d favourite not only in the usual onion/carrot/celery mix in cooking, but in salads etc. It is often served with drinks, cut into short lengths and stuffed, usually with a cheesy mixture with which it has an affinity.

    1. Thank you so much, Eha. I’m glad you like the idea. Thanks for the cheese snack idea. I will try it one day. The onion/carrot/celery mix is what I use in simmered dishes too (but when I make stock I prefer celeriac).

  8. I love celery! I grow it every year in my garden specifically for the leaves which are my favorite part. Your squid and celery dish looks absolutely fantastic! Great color and flavor combination.

    1. Thanks a lot, Tessa. I haven’t started using celery leaves yet but I will come to this soon I guess. Thanks for the idea.

  9. It’s interesting because in both the south and southwestern U.S., celery is never a main ingredient. People, including myself, never think of celery as having any type of flavor. 🙂 I guess I need to really pay more attention to it. Bobby and I both love squid salads and this one looks quite simple to make as most of your recipes are. I just love it! Love the sauce! Fabulous salad my dear!

    1. Thank you very much, MJ. Actually this is a stir-fry, not a salad 😉 but the celery stays crunchy of course! I think I am discovering a great celery mystery… Eva (from Canada) also says celery doesn’t have a strong smell. Jeno (from Texas) and Kiki from Germany confirm my anise aroma impression (it’s so strong that even when I start cutting celery I smell anise). As I told Eva there are two possibilities: either two different varieties or some of us are so used to celery, they no longer think about its aroma…

      1. Whoops! Yep – a stirfry – missed that. Stir-fry or salad, I know it’s something that we would like. Celery has just become quite interesting. 🙂

  10. Lovely colors! And those combination of textures … super! I do like celery, even in it’s raw state, dunked in peanut butter. Weird? It’s good! You should try it 🙂
    The family isn’t such a great fan of celery tho and I’ve substituted it many times with fennel. I can see this fabulous dish using fennel as well. I might just do that! Thanks, Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. Celery with peanut butter sounds crazy and actually flavoursome! I will put it on my celery dishes list. Thank you for the wonderful idea! (Maybe I will add some hot chili flakes to the peanut butter?). Can you believe I have never cooked fennel? I have had it maybe twice in my life only and liked it, but somehow never experimented with it. Thanks for reminding me I have one more vegetable to discover.

  11. I think your combination of squid and celery sounds good. My mother always mixed cream cheese and a little mayo, stuffed it into celery sticks and topped it with chopped nuts to have before a holiday meal.

  12. So interesting… celeriac (the humble, homely) and okra (also subjected to much abuse in the blogosphere ;-)) are prized in certain circles here for their uniqueness. They are both very uncommon in every day dishes which I think adds to their appeal. The celery that is sold in Canada (and likely in the United States) is entirely tasteless. For a crunchy, aromatic vegetable, fennel bulb would likely be the equivalent to your anise fragranced celery. I happen to love the anise flavour so when I image your experiment with fennel it is very exciting and inviting indeed… I also luuuuv your chili garlic sauce. So fun reading about this and the differences in flavour in common foods… great post Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I am glad you like this experimental hot dish. Most of all thank you for helping me solve the celery mystery 😉 It must be a different variety then because our celery in Europe (I have tested Polish, French and Swiss until now but Kiki from Germany has apparently similar anise smell experience) smells so strong that when you cut it in two before putting to the fridge (otherwise the fridge is too small 😉 ) the anise smell spreads all around in the whole kitchen. I don’t think I could have it as a snack the way I hear you have it in North America and the way I can have carrot sticks or raw cauliflower (even though I do like anise and anise aroma) because it’s too strong… Maybe I will get used to it. It is very close to fennel indeed, but for me much stronger than celeriac which I have raw in céléri remoulade. One lives and learns!

  13. Hi Sissi – I love, love, LOVE celery! In fact, when I buy it it’s usually for the sole purpose of eating as a snack. I can happily go to the refrigerator, break off 2 stalks, wash them and eat them with a little salt… SO good, but the delicious white celery is not too common here. It’s usually the more tough green celery and it’s rarely sold in bunches, but by the individual stalk… which means someone is going through the bunches and breaking them up and then throwing away the tender hearts 🙁

    The dish looks absolutely wonderful – I’ve still yet to find squid sold fresh though… I must try a big fishmonger sometime in Paris and see if they have them!

    1. Thanks a lot, Charles. I know that the British consume lots of celery and I was wondering if you were the fan too. You are right about the white celery: I think the ones I see here are only green.
      Strangely I have never seen separate stalks in France (I mainly go to Carrefour and organic shops), only huge bunches… in Switzerland too. (This is a problem for me because I don’t cook celery so much and don’t eat it raw yet so I always try to choose the smallest bunch 😉 ). I have just bought a bunch of organic Swiss celery and it weighs one kilo… I will have to try more new recipes I guess 😉 (If you have any ideas…) I also prefer the tender young stalks.
      I have never found fresh squid anywhere. I buy whole (cleaned) frozen tubes. Apparently freezing tenderises squid and octopus, so it’s not a bad thing. I am the only one who likes it a lot, but I always keep several tubes in the freezer. I defrost them covered in cold water.

      1. Hmm, come to think of it I never saw frozen tubes either… I’ll keep a look out, definitely.

        For celery… I must admit, I don’t really know many recipes. You can make a good celery soup, which is delicious, or something like a waldorf salad. I usually just eat it raw!

        1. Thanks, Charles, I will try it in salads. I buy my squid in Switzerland. This is where I buy 99% of fish and seafood because I live close to a special fishmonger where 2/3 of the clients are restaurant owners and they also have lots of frozen seafood and fish; the bad side is that they will never clean small fish for you and most fish is sold not cleaned, but the good side is the huge choice, most prices and also the freshness. Have you ever looked in Picard?

          1. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been to Picard in my life, but there’s one opening up down the road from me. It’s being converted now (used to be a carpet store) so we’re definitely going to go there when it opens!

            1. I haven’t been to it for a long time (I have a small freezer so apart from my obligatory squid, shrimp, ice and some herbs there is not much space for other frozen food products) but many French friends say it’s good quality and of course the choice is big.

              1. Yeah, they do some excellent stuff, and it had a peculiar place in French society. If you are having a dinner party in England, normally it is considered not really “good” to serve a starter or dessert which used to be frozen, from a supermarket, but Picard products are really considered acceptable and even preferable sometimes it seems.

                1. Haha! I think it depends on people (no one in my French family would do this, they would buy a dessert at a chocolatier or pâtissier) but I know what you mean…

  14. Can’t believe I missed this amazing Korean squid dish with celery…love squid, and love the celery pairing, which I have used in my Thai squid salad a while back. Celery can be used so many different ways, in soups, salads, stews…love them raw as a healthy snack. I keep them already cleaned, cut, and kept in water in a plastic container to keep it crunchy.
    Getting back to your squid; love the scoring on the squid which I also score as well, if I want to pretty effect. Your sauce looks and sounds superb, and so is the presentation!

    (sorry for not commenting sooner…been spending more family time lately, and not around any computer; no ‘smart phone’ or I-Pad, either)

    1. Thanks a lot, Elisabeth. I must check your Thai squid salad. It sounds great. I always score it because I think this way more sauce/seasoning gets into the squid. Accidentally it looks better too 😉

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