Stir-fried Squid with Garlic


If memory serves me correctly, this was my first experience of Thai cookery, more than eighteen years ago. Fresh squid is quickly stir-fried with chillies, basil and garlic – a mixture, one chef pronounced, mandated by heaven. Squid is an inexpensive and nutritious food but one sorely lacking in lively taste, a deficiency brilliantly supplied by the assertive virtues of these seasonings.

Once the squid meat has been prepared, the dish is only minutes away from completion – for maximum impact, delay the final preparations until the last feasible moment.


  • 450 g (1 lb) squid, fresh or frozen
  • 175 g (6 oz) fresh or frozen petit pois
  • 1½ tablespoons groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons finely sliced shallots
  • 2–3 small fresh red Thai chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • handful fresh basil leaves


The edible parts of the squid are the tentacles and the body. If it has not been cleaned by your fishmonger you can do it yourself. Pull the head and tentacles away from the body. Using a small sharp knife, split the body in half. Remove the transparent bony section. Wash the halves thoroughly under cold running water and then pull off and discard the skin. Cut the tentacles from the head, cutting just above the eye. (You may also have to remove the polyp, or beak, from the base of the ring of tentacles.) If you are using frozen squid make sure it is properly thawed before cooking it. Cut the squid meat into 4 cm (1½ in) strips.

If you are using fresh peas, blanch them for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water, then drain and set aside. If you are using frozen peas, simply thaw them and set them aside.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Then add the squid and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the peas and the rest of the ingredients, except the basil leaves, and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes until the squid is firm and white. Finally, toss in the basil and give one last stir.

Turn the mixture onto a platter, garnish with the fried garlic and serve at once.