Aromatic Garlic Squid

Many of my fellow Chinese-Americans have shared my experience of enjoying squid, long before it was called calamari. We used to keep many of our traditional Chinese foods a secret, for we were afraid our American friends would find them a bit too exotic. At home, however, we loved our ‘strange’ foods, such as this simple garlic squid, which my mother often made. It took her a little time to prepare, but, then, she did all the cleaning of the squid herself; today most supermarkets offer prepared squid. While this dish was quickly stir-fried in a hot wok, the aromas always provided proof that we were lucky to be Chinese and to be eating so well. At our table, this squid was accompanied by a soup, a vegetable and a meat dish – and, of course, rice.


  • 675 g ( lb) squid, fresh or frozen
  • tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


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. Grasp the head and tentacles and pull 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 ( in) strips. Blanch the strips and the tentacles in a large pot of boiling water for 5 seconds. The squid will firm up slightly and turn an opaque white colour. Remove and drain immediately for at least 5 minutes in a colander.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Then sprinkle in the salt, black pepper and chilli and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Toss in the squid and stir-fry vigorously for 1 minute. Finally, drizzle in the sesame oil and give the mixture a quick stir, mixing well. Serve immediately with other dishes or with rice.