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Salt and Pepper Squid ft. Sichuan Dipping Chilies (Jiaoyan Youyu, 椒盐鱿鱼)

Author: Taylor Holliday | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking

Ingredients

Jiaoyan (Pepper-Salt)

  • ¼ cup premium Sichuan pepper da hong pao or Tribute pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed
  • tablespoon kosher salt

Salt-and-Pepper Squid

  • 1 pound squid (aka calamari) tubes and tentacles fresh or thawed
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons AP flour
  • enough oil to shallow-fry or deep-fry
  • 2 dried er jing tiao chilies, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • jiaoyan (pepper-salt) to taste
  • Sichuan dipping chilies to taste

Instructions

Jiaoyan

  • Add 1/4 cup premium red Sichuan pepper to a small, dry skillet with 1 tablespoon fennel seed. If you have cheap Sichuan pepper, you'll need to pick out all the black seeds and twigs first. Better yet, don't use cheap Sichuan pepper! Heat the huajiao and fennel over a low flame until they smell fragrant.
  • Add 1 tablespoon sesame seed and 1 ½ tablespoons salt and stir constantly until both are lightly toasted. The peppercorns will turn from red to dark red, but do not brown or burn them.
  • Remove mixture from pan and let it cool. Grind to a coarse powder in a mortar & pestle or to a fine powder in a spice grinder.

Salt-and-Pepper Squid

  • Slice calamari tubes into thick rounds, about 3 pieces per tube. Leave tentacles whole. Add to bowl with Shaoxing wine and marinate while you prep other ingredients.
  • Drain off as much liquid as possible from the squid. Add egg white, cornstarch and flour to bowl and mix well. Add more cornstarch if necessary to make a thick but loose batter.
  • Heat wok over a high flame. When hot, add enough oil to deep-fry. Alternatively, add enough oil to shallow-fry, but don't stint on the oil. When oil is hot, add half of the squid pieces to the wok piece by piece to prevent them sticking together. This is easiest done with your hands (carefully). Allow the battered squid to cook undisturbed until set, then fry it, flipping and stirring gently, until all sides are deeply golden. Remove to a paper towel to drain.
    Add more oil if needed and reheat. Fry second batch as you did the first.
  • Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok and return to low heat. Add chilies, garlic and white parts of scallions. Stir-fry until fragrant, but don't brown them. Add back fried squid, turn heat up to medium and stir-fry it all together. Add scallion greens and jiaoyan, stir through, then plate. Sprinkle generously with dipping chilies.
    Serve with extra jiaoyan and dipping chilies at table.