Squid with Cumin and Chili

Squid with Cumin and Chili

Grilling meats with Chili and Cumin is a common practice in Xinjiang in the far West of China, but it is also popular in the Northern regions as well. Quite a long time ago, I frequented a very nice restaurant, long since closed, in Ottawa’s Chinatown. They specialized in northern barbecue and I tried all sorts of different things, such as Lamb, Pig Intestine, Duck Tongue, and Squid. The latter was an especial treat and the dish being featured here today is very much inspired by memories of the grilled delicacies at the wonderful Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant.

The Basic Method

Squid bodies sliced open and in half
Squid bodies sliced open and in half

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

The Spice Blend and Garlic for Squid with Cumin and Chili
The Spice Blend and Garlic for Squid with Cumin and Chili

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.

Marinating Squid with Oil and Garlic
Marinating Squid with Oil and 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.

Squid Skewered and Coated with Spices
Squid Skewered and Coated with Spices

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.

Skewers of Squid on the Grill
Skewers of Squid on the Grill

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.

Serving Squid with Cumin and Chili

A Meal including Squid with Cumin and Chili
A Meal including Squid with Cumin and Chili

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. In truth, though, I think these are best served as a stand-alone appetizer with a nice cold beer.

Your Recipe Card:

Squid with Cumin and Chili

Squid with Cumin and Chili uses a grilling method from Western and Northern China. The recipe is easy, and the results spicy and delicious.
Course: Accompaniment, Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Chili, Cumin, Dried Squid, Garlic, Grilled
Author: John Thompson

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.

Instructions

  • 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.
  • Mash the garlic into the cooking oil, pour it over the squid and let marinate for at least an hour.
  • Thread the squid pieces on to skewers and coat liberally with the spice blend.
  • 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.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!