Steamed squid is a regular offering in dim sum restaurants and is a dish I rarely pass up. Sometimes, you find squid steamed with a curry sauce but, in my experience, the curry sauce usually served is a bit insipid and I generally don’t care for it.

The offering you see pictured above is one I was recently served at the Yangtze Dining Lounge in Ottawa. Most of the dishes I had that day were not actually that great but this particular one was first class. Commonly, squid pieces are often dusted in a flour of some sort before steaming but these were steamed ‘clean’ and the effect was very well done.

The pieces of ‘tube’ were very plump and thick and I would have guessed that they came from a fairly large specimen but the tentacles that were also steamed alongside were obviously from very tiny squid. I am not sure if the body flesh came from a different animal than the tentacles, or whether the flesh ‘plumped’ up during the steaming process. In any event, the cooking was expertly executed and the result especially tender. As usual, ginger, and a little scallion were added, and both of these were added deftly so as to just give a hint of their presence in the background. I have had this dish many times, both at home and in restaurants, and this was one of the best.

I am not giving you a proper recipe today … I was basically just playing around in my kitchen using some baby squid I had left from a larger package, generally making things up as I went along, and I wasn’t keeping proper notes. Still, you can get a rough idea of what I was doing and maybe get a few ideas to play with yourselves … Read More →

On the last evening of a recent trip to Ottawa, I went on an ‘appetizer tour’ and stopped for drinks and one or two appetizers at a series of restaurants. One such stop was at the ‘Curry Kebab House’ which sits in the space in Byward Market once occupied by another Indian restaurant called ‘Haveli’. I will have to go back there sometime and do a proper review of the place after sampling a few more of their dishes, but the one I tried there on this occasion was terrific …

The dish was called Calamari ‘Manko’ …. I have no idea of the origin of the name ‘Manko’ and a search only yielded the fact that it is a very rude Japanese slang term (I’ll let you Google it yourselves). The menu described the dish as being squid ‘tossed with curry leaves and toasted coconut [and] served with a tomato chutney’. In fact, the ingredients were actually served ‘in’, rather than ‘with’ the chutney, which, in addition to the tomato, included mustard seed and coriander leaf. Toasted dried chilies were almost added to the mix, lending an almost ‘Sichuanesque’ effect to the overall taste, which was unusual, but really nicely done. The squid was cooked just perfectly, being tender, but still a bit chewy, and there was a sweetness that came in part from the toasted coconut, but, probably, also from the addition of a bit of sugar.

The curry leaves really made a difference here. I have cooked with these at home, but this was the first time I have had them served to me in a restaurant dish. The woody, slightly herby taste, really added a nice note. I want to try making this at home, sometime… Unfortunately, curry leaves are very hard to come by for me, but I think that a peppery Thai-Basil might make a very decent substitute…

A northern Chinese recipe for squid that I really enjoy is Squid Grilled with Chili and Cumin. For today’s post, I decided to try the same flavor combination with battered rings of squid. I served the result with a simple sauce made by combining a little mayonnaise with chopped gherkin and a little chili sauce… Read More →

Somewhere, in my Chinese cookery book collection, I have a recipe for Shrimp that are prepared by poaching in green tea (complete with reconstituted tea leave shreds). As yet, I haven’t tried it but, not long ago, I saw a picture of squid that had been fried after dusting with greenish fragments that weren’t identified. It was clearly an Asian preparation (I forget where I saw the picture), and I suspected the green ‘bits’ weren’t any common herb as might be used in the west. I wondered if, perhaps, it might be powdered tea. Anyway, the idea sounded interesting and so I put together the little appetizer you see pictured above. The idea is still rather a ‘work in progress’, but the first attempt was interesting enough that you might like to try something along the same lines yourselves… Read More →

On a few occasions, I have ordered squid dishes in restaurants that consisted of the tentacles only. Mostly, these are the large type, and often come battered, as separate pieces, before being deep-fried. When I buy very tiny squid (which have been the only sort available up in these parts of late), I like to keep the whole tentacle ‘assembly’ in one piece and deep fry them without batter. The effect, once the central ring with the attached tentacles hits the oil, is to make them curl into shapes that remind me a little of flower blossoms.

Anyway, if you are cleaning tiny squid, or else have purchased them with the whole tentacle section packed separately, you can fry them up in about thirty seconds or so (with or without a light dusting of cornstarch) and serve them piping hot as a lovely little appetizer. You can provide a dip of your choice, if you like, but they are best with nothing more than a quick squeeze of lemon juice.

When I was a law student, I shared an apartment with two other students, one of whom had recently moved to Canada from Hong Kong. Like many Chinese immigrants, he adopted a Western name for himself but his choice, which was Gordon, was rather a poor one as he couldn’t pronounce it. Accordingly, my other room-mate and I re-dubbed him ‘G’…

G. was not a particularly accomplished cook but he had learned a few basic dishes from his mother and, one of these, which he cooked on a regular basis, is the one I am preparing for you today. This preparation represents my earliest introduction to dried squid as a culinary ingredient and I have loved it ever since… Read More →

This Korean Banchan, or small-plate/side dish, uses dried squid and chili paste. There are many variations and quite a lot use the dried squid that is purchased pre-cut into fine shreds. This one, however, starts with a whole dried squid and the result is not just spicy and delicious but good and chewy as well… Read More →

Dried Squid are used quite commonly as a cooking ingredient in the cuisines of China, Korea and the Philippines and are very popular, in various forms, as a snack food, particularly in Japan. The advantages of drying the product are not only for lengthy storage in the absence of refrigeration but, as with most dried foods, the flavor of the fresh article is considerably concentrated and enhanced.

Whole squid, untreated other than by the drying process, can be purchased in a variety of sizes, from over a foot long, to just a few inches or so in length and, once prepared for use, can be utilized in much the same was as fresh squid, albeit with some change in flavor and texture. Generally, good quality dried squid will still have quite a sweetish taste but as it ages it can be a little bitter sometimes so try and choose a product that has a nice, light color and avoid any that is very dark brown or is devoid of aroma…Read More →

When I am at the type of western restaurant that serves deep-fried calamari rings as an appetizer I usually select them because, in such places (with the exception of good Italian restaurants), the rest of the appetizer menu is usually not that interesting. I like deep-fried Calamari most of the time but I also prefer to eat heavily battered deep-fried foods only sparingly, if only as a matter of personal taste rather than for health reasons.

Since I had some frozen Calamari Rings unused after a previous meal, I decided to use them as a deep-fried appetizer, but, rather than using the typical sort of thick batter, I thought I would use a much lighter Asian frying technique along with a seasoning that is especially popular with shrimp…Read More →