I got the idea for this dish from Kylie Kwong, who has to go down as one of my all-time favourite chefs. Her philosophy is to bring Asian techniques into Western cookery and she does this by showing us that real Chinese cooking isn't all about sticky sweet and sour pork, MSG-packed sizzling beef and some chicken and stale cashews served in a gooey sauce. It's more about clean, simple flavours that showcase the main ingredieent of the dish. She is very clear about the fact that quality of ingredients is absolutely vital. I'm a big fan of this approach to food and love her "less is more" vibe.
Last week I had some fresh calamari steaks and didn't really know what to do with them. I ended up adapting one of her dishes and the whole thing took about 10 minutes from start to finish. The end result was a beautifully balanced, light warm salad.
Stuff you'll need to feed 2:
- About 400g fresh calamari steaks
- A quarter of a cup of cornflour
- Canola oil (I like using this oil for this dish as olive oil is a bit overpowering)
- A handful of coriander, finely sliced (use the stalks and roots)
- 2 tablespoons of spring onion, sliced diagonally
- About a thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
- 1 - 2 chillies, finely chopped
- 1 - 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- About a teaspoon of sea salt
- 2 teaspoons of Sichuan pepper (you can find this in any Asian store but I think places like Woolies and Pick 'n Pay are stocking it now too)
- A head of iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
- 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- A packet of rice noodles, soaked in boiling water as per packet instructions
Okay, what to do:
1. Score your calamari steaks to make criss-cross patterns. Be careful not to break through the skin.
2. In a bowl, combine the calamari and cornflour to coat. Shake off any excess flour.
3. Heat some canola oil in a wok (or the biggest pan you have). Wait until the oil is extremely hot and cook the calamari steaks for about 1 minute per side. 1 minute guys, that is all it will take. Please don't be tempted to cook it longer. Remove calamari, cut into pieces diagonally and set aside.
4. Add the coriander, spring onions, ginger, chilli and garlic to the wok and stir fry for another minute. Return squid and add the sea salt and Sichuan pepper (leave a bit for garnish). Stir-fry for 30 seconds and you're done.
5. To serve, place a handful of noodles in one half of a bowl and shredded lettuce in the other. Top with the calamari mixture and finish by sprinkling over some Sichuan pepper and squeezing over some lemon juice.
This dish is healthy, fresh and ridiculously easy. The only thing that can go wrong is if you overcook the calamari. It will be tough, tasteless and generally pretty average. Just have a bit of faith and pull it off early. As a worst-case scenario you can chuck it back on if you need to.