Squid Grilled at the Juxiangyuan Restaurant in Ottawa
I was very sorry when the Juxiangyuan restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown finally closed its doors. They did a wonderful range of dishes from both Cantonese and Northern Chinese cuisine and I enjoyed almost every single one I tried. Their Grilled Squid, done in Northern Chinese Barbecue style was truly delicious.
Juxiangyuan, during its all too brief existence, featured a good number of dishes done in Northern Chinese barbecue style, and the grilled squid was the first I tried there. The unique signature of the culinary style is the rub of ground dried chili and cumin that is applied to the various foodstuffs before being grilled over an open flame.
Cumin is not generally associated with Chinese cuisine, as it is with, say, Indian cookery, but it is very widely used in the far Western regions (such as among the Uyghur people in Xinjian, for instance), and also, to a somewhat lesser extent in the Northern Provinces. When paired with ground dried chili, it makes a perfect spice combination for all sorts of preparations, including barbecue, and it is no coincidence that the common Western ‘Chili Powder’ Is dominated by this spice combination.
Anyway, what I especially liked about the Squid Grilled at Juxiangyuan was that both the body and the tentacles were included, in this case on separate skewers. I thought that it must have been a bit fiddly preparing the skewers for my meal given the squid tentacles were so very tiny to being with.
It would have been easy to ruin this dish as squid is can quickly overcook at high heat, especially with very slender pieces. Here, though, the flesh was delightfully tender and chewy and the sweetness was not overpowered by the liberal dusting of the spices. Sesame seeds were added to the mix and both these and the almost whole cumin seeds gave the dish a nice textural quality as well as adding flavor. I probably have not had a better squid dish than this one and I happily would have ordered several more skewers but for the fact there were so many other dishes I wanted to try.