Salt and Pepper Squid

Despite its slowly increasing popularity, squid is still not something you find very often at a private dinner or lunch. Is it that people fear a slimy tentacle, or the nightmare of preparation? The keen cook should not allow prejudice to exclude this delicious and quick-cooking option from the menu. Indeed, once you have found how easy squid is, you will make it an everyday fish, as commonplace as plaice.

This method of cooking is essentially Sichuan but - while the spicing is mouth-tingling - surprisingly it does not overwhelm the squid, rather complementing the rich flesh to perfection.

I suggest you cook this in 2 batches and give your guests seconds rather than overload the oil, as it is vital that the exterior crisps. This technique doesn't suit overlarge squid: those weighing 115-225g / 4-8oz are ideal. This also ensures that you get lots of tentacles, and these are the tastiest bits.

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  • 450g/1lb cleaned squid (if you can't get your fishmonger to do it for you, see Squid Roll Sashimi for details of preparing squid)
  • 3 tbsp salt, finely ground
  • ½ tbsp five-spice powder
  • 2tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 225g/½lb flour
  • sunflower oil, for deep-frying coriander leaves, to garnish (optional)


  • coffee grinder
  • sieve
  • shallow bowl
  • deep-fryer or deep pan or large wok
  • heatproof thermometer
  • frying basket or spider
  • 4 pairs of chopsticks


Mise en Place

If necessary, prepare the squid as described. Cut it into bite-sized pieces • Put the salt five-spice powder and pepper in a coffee grinder and whizz briefly to combine. Then mix evenly with the sifted flour in a shallow bowl • Heat the oil in a deep pan or wok to 185°C/365°F.


Roll the squid in the spiced flour, shaking off any excess. The squid will be moist enough to take the flour coating without needing to dip it into beaten egg first.

Deep-fry in the hot oil for 2 minutes (any longer and the squid will toughen). When cooked, drain on masses of paper towels.


Serve immediately while still piping hot and eat with chopsticks. You could scatter over a few coriander leaves as a garnish.