Most Chinese restaurants often have “salt and pepper” items on the menu. Pork chops, shrimp, cubes of tofu, chicken wings, or squid are usually battered and deep-fried and served with a mound of chilli peppers and green onions. I made my version with squid, using both the body and the tentacles (my favorite part!). I didn’t want a thick batter so I found this recipe which coated the squid with a dry mixture of cornstarch and flour. Since I don’t like super spicy foods, I used the milder jalapeño peppers instead of Serrano or Thai chillies. I’m not sure how authentically Chinese this dish is, but as the fragrant aroma of the garlic, jalapeños, and green onions filled my kitchen, I knew this dish was going to be good.
1 pound raw squid, tentacles and tubes
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 jalapeño peppers (I used one red and one green)
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 stalks green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more if needed
1/4 bunch of cilantro
Slice the squid tubes into 1/2-inch tubes and trim away any uneven parts of the tentacles (but leave them whole). Rinse the squid and dry completely with a paper towel.
Combine the salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Chop the jalapeño peppers and combine with the minced garlic and green onions. (For presentation purposes, I minced the red one and cut the green one into rings.) Set aside.
Combine the flour and cornstarch in a bowl. Add four teaspoons of the salt/pepper mixture (reserve the rest for later) and mix well. Toss the squid in the seasoned flour mixture until well-coated. (I really just wanted to cover lightly with flour so I put the coated squid pieces on a hand-held strainer and shook off the excess flour.)
Heat the wok until almost smoking and then add the oil. When oil is hot, flash fry the squid until lightly browned and cooked, about 1 minute to 90 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towels. Do this in batches, if necessary, so the wok is not overcrowded.
Adjust the amount of oil so there is only a little bit in the wok and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic, jalapeños, and green onions and stir-fry quickly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squid back in the wok and toss to coat the squid with the garlic mixture. Remove from heat and season with remaining salt and black pepper.
Transfer to a plate, garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately with some steamed rice.