Grilled Squid with Chili and Cumin

I was inspired to try this experiment after enjoying a similar Chinese BBQ dish at the Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant in Ottawa last year. I actually gave it a try at home shortly after my return but, lacking a barbecue following the disastrous fire the previous summer, I tried to use my oven grill, which just didn’t produce the result I wanted. Now, however, I am the proud owner of a brand new barbecue, courtesy of my lovely wife, and this dish will be the very first to be cooked upon it…

The Ingredients

  • 4 small squid, bodies only, speckled membrane removed;
  • 3 tbsp. Cooking oil;
  • 1 Garlic clove;
  • 2 tbsp. Cumin seed;
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Chili flakes;
  • 1 tbsp. Sesame seeds;
  • Pinch Salt.

The Method

First, open the squid bodies by slitting down one side and then cut each piece in half.

Toast the cumin seed in a dry pan and then grind it in a mortar with the chili. Mix these ingredients with the salt and sesame seed and then mince the garlic.

Mix the garlic with the cooking oil, mashing it with the back of a spoon to crush the fragments, and then pour it over the squid pieces in a pan. Make sure all the flesh gets coated and then leave to marinate for at least an hour.

Now thread the squid onto skewers ‘ripple’ fashion, as shown above. You can just use one skewer for each piece, if you like, but two makes for a much easier grilling job. If you are using wooden skewers, as I am, then you will need to soak them in water for a few hours ahead of time to prevent them from burning. Once this is done, coat each piece on both sides with some of the spice blend and set aside.

When you are ready to cook, preheat your grill to medium and then grill the skewers for 7 or 8 minutes on each side until the flesh is cooked through and the edges have a little bit of crispiness. Serve immediately.

The Verdict

I served the skewers with some scallion pancakes, baby bok choy stir-fried with shiitake mushrooms, and some of the Kimchi my wife made with our greenhouse harvest last year.

My wife summed up the meal with the word ‘Perfection’, and I have to agree that it was pretty darn good. I was a little afraid the squid weren’t going to turn out alright as it was just 5 degrees outside with a nasty wind and I had a very difficult time keeping a good temperature inside the barbecue. They didn’t char at the edges as I might have liked but they were done to just the right degree of tenderness and nicely sweet. The cumin and chili worked every bit as well as I recall from my experience at Ju Xiang Yuan in Ottawa, and I was ultimately very pleased with the result. It is a shame that there is so little barbecuing weather left but I hope to get a few decent experiments in before the Arctic winter is upon us…

15 thoughts on “Grilled Squid with Chili and Cumin”

  1. Sybaritica,
    I love squid. I think it might just be my favourite food. Thank you for this. And when in Montreal, please don’t hesitate to stop by and cook for Le Clown.
    Le Clown

  2. Also have no grill or oven! Maybe I can try it in the pan?? I made squid for the first time for a large dinner a few days ago. Tasted alright but the texture of the squid was not perfect. Have you got any tips for me on that? I wok fried them in oil and a spice paste.

    1. Hmmmm … I often pan fry sections or rings, but not usually the whole bodies. The number one rule is cook hot and fast for a short time, or less hot and slower for a long time… anything in between leaves for a cardboard like texture. When pan frying… the Chinese often score the flesh by making a series of parallel diagonal cuts in the flesh and then and other series at right angles to the first so that you have a diamond pattern of cuts halfway through the depth of the flesh… then you cut the bodies into sections and fry or steam them …. it makes an attractive pattern and helps the flesh cook through for short cooking times.

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