Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Chilli salt squid

Off I went to roam around the countryside for a while on holiday visits, armed with a bagful of produce, a swag of this month’s food mags, and Miss Min the cat in her carrybag strapped into the front seat. Mountains, Spring, fresh air – ahhhh.

Something snacky and yummy for that night: a quick dash to fishmarkets on the way and the Hawkesbury calamari stood out as glistening fresh with pearly neon blue flashes speckling its skin. I always buy calamari whole and ungutted. I know it’s a fiddle to do it yourself, but it’s worth it when they’re so fresh. Pull out the centre quill and goopy bits (technical, I know) and slice the hood so it lays flat. Cut the tentacles just below the beak so they come off in one piece leaving aforementioned goopy bits behind. Scrape the inside of the hood if there’s goo sticking to it and score the inside of the hood with a sharp knife diagonally in a criss cross pattern. Then cut the hoods into whatever size suits.

The coating: I’ve tried a few different ways of approaching this dish and pondered many questions along the way. To batter or not to batter, the type of flour, what spices – blah blah. While there’s many varieties around, here’s one that works for me.

In a plastic bag combine 3 tablespoons of rice flour, 1 tablespoon of corn flour and 1 tablespoon of plain flour. Add 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns (that have been roasted for a minute in a hot pan then ground finely in a mortar and pestle) 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper and a pinch pf dried chilli (suit your taste, I like a decent pinch).

Heat a wok or deep saucepan of peanut oil to deep fry temperature – 180-5°C. I’m normally not a fuss pot with exact temperatures, but for this it’s important to have the right temperature, so if you have a candy thermometer, use it to keep track.

Just before you fry the squid pieces, dump them (in batches of you have a lot) into the flour and spice mixture, shake off the excess and put them straight into the oil. If you don’t do this at the last minute any moisture on the squid can turn the flour gluey and the squid will stick together in a lump. Flash fry for barely 30 seconds to a minute or until golden brown. Fish out with a slotted spoon to drain any excess oil and drain on kitchen paper. Continue with the next batch. Eat immediately. You can garnish with a bit of lemon or lime, fresh chilli and spring onions, but I’ve never found it’s stayed on the plate long enough to cut a lemon in half. It was a challenge trying to stave off greedy fingers to take a pic!

More holiday food adventures to come – stay tuned.


Anonymous Matt at Abstract Gourmet said...

Hi Reb,

I made this dish (well my version of it) literally last night... I managed to fudge something that tasted mostly right with a cornflour covering, salt and pepper, and chilli. A squeeze of lime juice over the top was also pretty tasty.

I like your method of tossing them in a bag though... will have to try that next time... and anyone who freely chooses to handle squid guts gets my vote everytime :)


12:46 PM  
Anonymous jules said...

I second the squid-gut vote.

Looks like you've well & truly mastered the gentle art of chilli salt squid..yum

2:14 PM  
Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

Lordy this looks good. We'll have to try this method next time. It looks a winner!

12:39 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Hi Matt - it's worth the effort, aint it? After years of trial and error I recommend an investment in rice flour - it ups the crispy crunchyness quotient on the coating. You'rs sounds definitely yum!

Thanks Jules - it is a gentle art, but well worth the experimentation.

Works for me Helen - as long as the squid is spankingly fresh it'll turn out tender as butter every time.

7:46 AM  

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