Saturday, June 8, 2013

Salt and Pepper Calamari/Squid (Jiao Yan You Yu)

This is one of my all-time favorite appetizers. I never attempted to make this dish myself until I saw a recipe for it in Bee Yinn Low's Easy Chinese Recipes and decided to give it a go. The batter is hers without any changes, but I tweaked the seasonings a bit. I did have a problem with the batter sticking to the calamari rings as they were frying, but think that I just have to make sure they are patted really dry with paper towels and maybe even lightly coated with cornstarch before dipping them into the batter. So addictive that you might be inclined to eat the entire dish all by yourself. Gil almost did, that is, until I pulled in the reigns and said, wtf, dude? Can the cook take at least a couple bites of her own dish? 

1 lb. calamari/squid, cleaned & cut into rings (if also using tentacles, cut off the hard end)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

2 scallions, chopped
2 red and/or green jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 egg white
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. oil
pinch of salt

1 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorn (optional)
pinch of salt

Lime or lemon wedges for garnish

1. Rinse the calamari under cold tap water then pat really dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl and marinate with 1/4 tsp. of white pepper and 1/4 tsp. of salt for 15-20 minutes.

2. Combine the batter ingredients together in a bowl. Stir with a whisk or fork until smooth.

3. Place about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a medium pot or wok and heat over medium-high heat until about 350F. 

4. In the meantime, lightly coat the calamari in cornstarch, then dip into the batter. 

5. Drop the battered calamari into the hot oil (do not overcrowd the pan - cook in two batches if needed) and deep fry for about 1 minute or until lightly golden. Do not fry any longer or the calamari will become tough. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

6. Pour out all the oil in the wok/pan except for about 1 tbsp. Add the chopped scallion and sliced chiles and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the fried calamari, 1 tsp. of white pepper and a pinch of salt. Quickly toss all ingredients together to combine. Remove to a serving platter. Best served hot while batter is still crisp.

Rinse calamari under cold tap water. Blot with paper towels until really dry.

Slice calamari into rings and prep tentacles by cutting off the hard (beak) end behind the eyes - I know, sounds gnarly, but it's gotta be done.

Marinate the calamari in 1/4 tsp. white pepper and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.

Chop the scallions and slice the chiles.

Combine the batter ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Lightly coat the calamari rings and tentacles in cornstarch then dip into the batter.

Deep fry the battered calamari in hot oil (in 2 batches if needed) for about 1 minute our until lightly golden. Do not cook longer, or the calamari will become tough and rubbery. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Drain all but 1 tbsp. of oil in the pan. Bring back up to heat and saute the chopped scallions and sliced chiles for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the fried calamari back to the pan and season with 1 tsp. white pepper, 1/8 tsp. of ground Szechuan peppercorn (if using), and a pinch of salt. Garnish with lime or lemon wedges.

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