Salt and Pepper Squid

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

I spent about six months trying to nail the perfect salt and pepper squid. In my view, it is Australia’s national dish! Think about it – it’s not that popular around the rest of the world, but you can find it at any pub, café and restaurant around the country. Different cuisines all have a version and it’s almost always the most popular dish on the menu. I gauge a Chinese restaurant based on how well they do their salt and pepper squid. If it’s shit, they’re probably not very good at anything else. The crispiness of the batter, the softness of the squid – it’s a winning combination.

Ingredients

  • 2 large whole squid, about 800 g (1 lb 12 oz) each

Batter

  • 100 g ( oz/2/3 cup) glutinous rice flour
  • 100 g ( oz/2/3 cup) rice flour
  • 100 g ( oz/2/3 cup) tapioca starch
  • 350 ml (12 fl oz) soda water

The Rest

  • 300 g (10½ oz) potato starch, for dusting
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 5 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced into rounds
  • spicy salt (Essentials)
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, to garnish
  • 1 small handful of baby coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish
  • lemon cheeks, to garnish

Method

Clean the squid by removing the head and cutting beneath the eyes. Discard the eyes and cut the tentacles into segments. Reserve these. Cut open the main part of the body, discard the guts and wings, pull off the outer skin and reserve the tube only. With a sharp knife, score the underside and then cut it into rectangular pieces about 2 × 5 cm (¾ × 2 inches). At the end, you should be left with the tentacles and scored tube pieces.

Make the batter by combining the glutinous rice flour, rice flour and tapioca starch in a bowl. Add the soda water and whisk until well combined. The batter should not be too thick but have an almost runny texture. Put the potato starch in another bowl.

Dip a few squid pieces in the batter, then into the bowl of potato starch, turning the pieces until they feel dry. Repeat the process with the rest of the squid and store in a dry container. They can be kept in the fridge like this, uncovered, for up to 30 minutes.

Fill a small frying pan with 3 cm ( inches) of oil, heat over a medium–high heat and shallow-fry the garlic and chilli until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Fill a large wok or deep-fryer to one-third full with oil and heat to 200°C (400°F) or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 15 seconds. Carefully drop in the squid in batches, making sure the pieces don’t stick together, and fry for 2 minutes or so or until crisp. Don’t expect the batter to turn golden, because the starches we’ve used don’t take on a lot of colour, especially if you are using new oil. Remove the squid with a wire scoop and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle liberally with spicy salt.

Assemble the squid on a plate and top with the spring onions, fried garlic and chilli. Garnish with coriander leaves and lemon cheeks. Serve immediately.