Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shallow Fried Calamari Rings with a Twist

Squids or calamari is a widely popular seafood with a very rich flavour. These are cooked in a number of ways but the most popular variant, perhaps, is fried calamari rings. I found the recipe first in the BBC food blog. That recipe, in itself is quick and wonderful to taste. It has a simple yet rich sea flavour and is a wonderful hit among almost everyone. And if you are anything like my Dad, you are adverse to strong sea flavours. However if you are totally like my Dad and somewhat like my partner, you'll want a spicy twist on everything that comes within inches of your mouth (and/or nose).

Enter, my partner and his culinary experiments. He has an enviable spice cabinet, and an even more enviable sense of flavours and combination. I have given up counting how many times I have been sceptical about his experiments in the kitchen and then forgot about my health (diet) mission while tucking into it. But I think I am starting to trust his gut feelings. Also, we skipped the beaten eggs so that the rings do not get over-burdened. That's where I'll stop the trash-talking and take you to the calamari rings recipe with a spicy twist.





Ingredients

For four-six

  • Cleaned squid tubes or rings – 1kg
  • Oyster sauce – 1 tablespoon
  • Garlic granules – 2½-3 teaspoon (see tip) 
  • Onion granules – 1½-2 teaspoons
  • Coriander powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Non-brewed condiment (synthetic vinegar) – 2 teaspoon
  • Crushed chillies – ½ teaspoon
  • Coarse black pepper – 1 teaspoon, divided
  • All purpose seasoning – ½ teaspoon (see tip)
  • Lemon/lime – ½, juiced (optional)
  • Sunflower oil – 6-8 tablespoons, divided
  • Onion – 1, finely sliced into rings (optional)
  • Flour – 1 cup or enough to coat all the rings
  • Paprika – a pinch
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon or to taste


Method

  1. If you are using squid tubes, cut then into rings about 1cm thick.
  2. Put them in a mixing bowl and add the oyster sauce, garlic granules, onion granules, coriander powder, non brewed-condiment (synthetic vinegar), crushed chillies, half of the coarse black pepper, all purpose seasoning, lemon/lime juice (if you're using) and the salt. Mix well.
  3. Let the rings stand in the marinade as you mix the flour to the remaining ingredients in another mixing bowl or a sandwich bag.
  4. You'd want to fry the rings in batches so that they don't stick together. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil each time in a non-stick pan.
  5. Drain off the excess marinade from the rings (don't throw away the excess if you have sliced onion rings) and coat them in the seasoned flour (see tip). Put the onion rings in the marinade and coat well.
  6. Place gently in the heated oil making sure they sit on the base and not the side, maintaining the ring structure. Squids tend to spit oil a lot so you'd want to be careful. If you use gas hobs, lower the flame. If not, take the pan off the hob and place the squid rings and return the pan back to the hob.
  7. The squids will continue to spit oil so use a cover if you have one in hand to protect yourself and your walls and cabinets.
  8. The flour might try to come off the rings because of the smooth, glossy surface of the squids and no egg to hold it together, but that's okay. It tastes pretty good. But if you really want a smooth batter on the surface, you must use beaten eggs as a coat over the flour. See the instructions here.
  9. Remember not to overcook. Use a fork to dig in and check if they are soft. Usually, they are cooked enough to be taken off the pan when the flour coat turns golden brown. Remember to drain off excess oil before taking out of the pan.
  10. Place them in a bowl or a dish covered with kitchen (paper) towel to soak up excess oil.
  11. Repeat for all the batches and finally for the onion rings if you're using them.
  12. Serve hot or the squids will begin to turn rubbery as they cool.

Tip

  1. I would suggest that you use garlic and onion granules for a better flavour (and to minimise water content for the marinade), but if you can't get hold of it, stick to paste. In that case, I would suggest to make the paste yourself. Also, I suggested two quantities, depending on how rich or mild you want to make your squids.
  2. I used Knorr's all-purpose seasoning, but if you can't lay your hands on one, look up the ingredients in your Chinese food tastemakers and see if it contains monosodium glutamate (MSG). Use it. You can also buy MSG directly, but remember to use just a pinch or two because it is not really great for your eyes.
  3. Coat the rings in flour just prior to adding them. So if you are frying them in batches, you'll be really glad if you have an extra hand to help you out there. Otherwise the water content from the marinade will make the flour all soggy and paste-like. That doesn't hamper the flavour in anyway, but spits oil much more.

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