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Making the rounds

Two delicious takes on squid provide something to chew over

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

I love squid, although I don't eat it as much as I'd like to because it's high in cholesterol. I even enjoy the slightly messy process of cleaning the squid, although, if you are squeamish, the seafood vendor might do it for you, if you ask nicely. But even if he does, you should still check the body to make sure it's been thoroughly cleaned.

 

Salt and pepper squid (pictured)
There are many versions of this dish, the worst of which is the thickly battered frozen squid rings sold as a snack in many bars, which are a waste of stomach space. When I make fried squid, I usually don't bother with a batter, because the moisture of the squid combined with the flour and cornstarch creates a nice light coating. The trick of turning the squid rings inside out is something food stylist Nellie Ming Lee taught me - it means they stay round, rather than collapsing.

 

20 grams fine sea salt
¾ tsp finely ground white pepper
¾ tsp five-spice powder
600 grams fresh squid, with bodies about 6cm-8cm long
30 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
30 grams cornstarch
1-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1-2 red bird's-eye chillies, cut into thin rings
Fresh limes, cut in wedges
Fresh coriander sprigs
Oil, for frying

 

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the salt, white pepper and five-spice powder and set it aside. Mix together the flour and cornstarch.

Clean the squid. Pull the tentacles and head from the body - most of the guts will come out of the cavity at the same time. Use a sharp knife to separate the head from the tentacles; discard the head and guts. Pull the transparent quill from the body and fish around with your finger inside the cavity to make sure it's completely clean. Pull off and discard the purple skin from the body then rinse it thoroughly inside and out. Cut the body into rings about 8mm wide, then turn them inside out. Put the squid rings and tentacles into a colander and drain briefly, then transfer them to a bowl. Sprinkle with the flour and cornstarch and mix thoroughly, then shake off the excess flour/starch.

Pour oil to a depth of about 6cm in a wok and heat it to 180 degrees Celsius. Fry the squid rings and tentacles in batches - do not crowd the pan. The squid take only about two minutes to cook. Scoop the pieces from the wok and drain them on paper towels. When all the squid has been cooked, pour off as much oil as possible from the wok, but do not wash it. Heat the wok over a medium flame, add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry briefly. Add all the squid back to the wok, sprinkle with some of the spiced-salt mixture and stir to combine. Transfer the ingredients to a serving platter and garnish with coriander sprigs. Put the remaining spiced-salt mixture in a small bowl and squeeze lime juice over it. Mix to form a loose paste, and serve as a dipping sauce.

 

Stuffed squid

 

500 grams squid, with bodies about 6cm-8cm long
225 grams minced pork
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 spring onion, minced
A few sprigs of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
10ml Vietnamese fish sauce
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of ground white pepper
A pinch of fine sea salt

 

For the dipping sauce and to garnish:
45ml Vietnamese fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 red bird's-eye chilli, cut into thin rings
About 20ml fresh lime juice
About 5 grams granulated sugar
About 20ml bottled still water
Fresh coriander sprigs

 

Clean the squid as in the first recipe, but keep the bodies whole and finely chop the tentacles. Dry the bodies with paper towels.

Mix the pork with the chopped tentacles, garlic, spring onion, coriander, fish sauce, sugar, pepper and salt. Stir the mixture vigorously for about a minute, to make it more cohesive. Loosely stuff the mixture into the cleaned squid bodies - do not pack it in. Secure the opening of each squid with a toothpick to hold in the stuffing. Place the stuffed squid on a heat-proof dish that holds the pieces in one layer. If there's any meat mixture left over, shape it into meatballs and place them around the stuffed squid.

Boil water in the bottom of a tiered steamer then place the dish holding the squid on the rack, cover the pan with the lid and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the meat mixture is cooked through.

While the squid is steaming, make the sauce by mixing the fish sauce with the garlic, chilli and lime juice. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Stir in the water and taste - if the sauce is too strong, add a little more water.

When the squid is cooked, take it from the steamer. Cut the squid into rings about 1.5cm thick. Garnish the squid with the coriander sprigs and serve with the dipping sauce.

 

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