Cantonese cuisine has several variations on intensely savory deep fried dishes, all unremarkably prefixed with “salt and pepper,” that are sautéd with chiles, scallions, and garlic along with heaping amounts of salt and pepper. Squid is an excellent candidate for this preparation, but pork chops and boneless whitefish are also very delicious. For a lighter version, consider stir frying the squid naked, without batter, over high heat.
The major point of variation in salt and pepper squid recipes is the batter – a mixture of a beaten egg and potato flour will yield an airy, tempura-like coating, while self-rising flour, oil, and water will produce more of a crunch. This recipe uses a batter with equal parts cornflour and all-purpose flour for a heftier, more mottled texture that is capable of holding onto the flavors of the garnish and seasoning. Purchasing whole squid requires more preparation before cooking, but nets you both the meaty mantle chunks and the most delicious portion – the tentacles, which cling onto the batter and crisp up exceptionally well in the deep fryer.
SALT + PEPPER SQUID.
- 2 lb squid chunks or whole squid
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornflour
- 2-3 scallions, finely chopped
- 3-5 bird’s eye chile peppers, de-seeded and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 lime, sliced
If using whole squid, clean the squid under running water by slowly pulling the head out and removing the clear, hard cuttlebone along with any remaining entrails. Slice the head just anterior to the eyes to yield a piece of squid with all of the tentacles attached. Discard the entrails, cuttlebones, and eyes and slice the bodies into 2-3″ bite-size chunks.
Mix 2-3 tbsp of salt and white or black pepper with 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup cornflour. Dry the squid chunks with paper towels and dredge them in the flour mixture. It is important to dry the squid out as much as possible with multiple rounds of paper towels to ensure that the batter does not get soggy.
Heat 3-4″ of cooking oil in a heavy pot or wok until the batter sizzles when tossed into the oil. Working in batches, deep fry the squid until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
Finely chop the bulbs of the scallions, chile peppers, and garlic and sauté over medium heat in a wok or large skillet until aromatic. Over high heat, add the deep fried squid and stir fry briefly, adding salt and pepper generously to taste.
Garnish with chopped scallion greens, chopped cilantro, and sliced limes. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.