Sunday, August 10, 2008

Salt and Pepper Squid

Sat 09 August 2008

Joelen's Culinary Adventures is hosting an 'Asian Appetizer Adventure' which seemed like a top notch excuse to make salt and pepper squid.

This sounded like it would be a pretty easy exercise, until I started digging around for recipes. Most of the recipes we could find seemed to involve quickly pan frying the squid and then tossing in a salt and pepper mix. Not what I had in mind at all. I was expecting a light batter, but the internet was not so swift in producing the 'right' recipe.

Fortunately, Australian Gourmet Traveller, as ever, came to the rescue. Thanks to the annual recipe index, I found that the January 2005 issue had featured salt and pepper squid as the month's Classic Dish. And it was exactly what I had in mind.

The article also features a potted history of the dish: I had no idea that this may be Cantonese in origin. I'd have to say that I've eaten it in primarily Thai restaurants.

Prep is very simple. First, take your squid, give it a rinse and then cut into generous bite size pieces. Lightly score the inside of the hoods in a criss-cross manner. Marinate the squid in some lemon juice in the fridge.

The spice mix consists of 3 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns, 1 1/2 teaspoons of black peppercorns (both dry roasted), 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground white pepper and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt (though you may want to reduce this). Grind these all up using a pestle and mortar and then mix into a blend of 35 g of rice flour (or ground rice) and 75 g of plain flour.

As the squid is deep fried, fill up your wok (or deep fryer) and get ready for the mess. Ideally, use an oil with a hot smoking point (peanut oil is an excellent choice). When you're ready to cook the squid, take it out of the fridge and dry it off. Dip the squid into lightly beaten egg white, then into the flour and spice mix and then straight into the hot oil for a minute or two, until golden and crispy.
Serve immediately. We had plain rice and salad on the side, and washed it down with a selection of international lagers from Beer Ritz. Keeping with the Asian theme, we made sure we enjoyed Beer Lao (from Laos) and Hue Beer (from Vietnam) while we were eating!

This dish does cause chaos in your kitchen and you end up feeling like you've done a full shift in a chip shop. Don't plan to cook this for dinner parties! Unfortunately, here in the UK, the squid ranks 4 on the scale of "fish to avoid" over at fishonline, so it's a once in a while treat.*

However, if you're lucky enough to live near the sea, I can't imagine anything better than a day on a boat, a couple of big squid as your haul, and this for supper!

*If you want to read about why fish stocks are important, read this recent article by Alex Renton.

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Blogger Ros said...

How I love squid. I didn't know it was rated so high on the 'don't eat' scale. It's suprising because there seems to be so much of it and it is so cheap.

It dies after it spawns? Weird.

3:10 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

It is odd and I daresay there's no way of picking between male & female squid when catching them (certainly not in the big bad world of trawler fishing!).

12:26 pm  

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