April 6, 2010

Salt and Pepper Squid

This is a great little Vietnamese dish which I learned to cook in the UK after hitting the best of what Old Street has to offer with my good friend Ruth. If you live in London or are up visiting and love Vietnamese, then do head down that way as there are plenty of good, cheap places at the start of the Kingsland Road (Shoreditch end).

One of our faves is Tay Do. It gets busy quickly, but the atmosphere is always good and you can take your own bottle. Don't expect high quality service or a top end restaurant, but the food is spot on.

Serves 4 as a starter

10 squid (Waitrose deli do some gooduns)
Cornflour – 6-8 heaped tblsp
Rock salt – small handful
Szechuan peppercorns – small handful (use regular peppercorns if unavailable)
Red chilli – chopped small to make up roughly ¾ tspn (optional - for those who like a bit of spice)
Vegetable/Sunflour oil

To serve:

1 spring onion – chopped finely lengthways
Soy sauce / sweet chilli sauce – for dipping
Lemon – chopped into wedges

Heat a saucepan or wok until very hot. Add salt and pepper, occasionally moving the wok about to avoid burning and until you smell the hot Szechuan peppercorns. Remove from pan and use a pestle and mortar to crush roughly (I find the end of a rolling pin and solid bowl does the trick if you’re down a pestle and mortar…).

Remove to a bowl, add the cornflour and mix well, leaving to one side.

Pull out the squid tails from their hoods and discard. Using a sharp knife, open up the hoods down one side and score either side using criss-cross motions (lightly, to avoid piercing the skin), then cut into strips, about one inch wide.

Cover the squid strips in the cornflour mix and leave to rest on a plate. Have another empty plate ready with a piece of kitchen paper resting on the top. Heat the pan again, and when hot add between 1-2 tablespoons of oil (make sure the wok is very hot before adding the oil, otherwise you risk ruining the squid). When you see the oil begin to sizzle slightly, add the strips of squid. I advise using tongs to turn the strips.

You will notice the squid start to curl as it cooks – when it begins to brown turn the strips over. You may need to add more oil as the cornflour absorbs what is in the pan, but add a little at a time - otherwise the squid will end up soggy. For those who wish to add a little spice to their dish, now is the time to add the chopped chilli.

Keep turning the squid until both sides are browned (should take between 2-4 minutes) and remove to some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil for a couple of minutes.

Place the squid on a serving dish or plate and scatter the spring onion over the top. Serve straight away with a small dish of soy or sweet chilli dipping sauce and some lemon wedges as you prefer. As I can't show you something I've prepared, I've borrowed this wee photo off the internet to give you an idea of what it should look like. Sourced from taste.com.au. I will get round to making this shortly so will get some pics up pronto!