How squid can transform into something so delectable, when coated in batter and deep fried, from being the scum of the sea is beyond me. If I was the first person in the history of the world who came across a squid, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near it, let alone ingest it. It looks gross. It feels gross.
Cleaning it is a bit awkward as well – pulling its beak and quill out, wiping the inner tube clean of mucus and general muck. So how has it made into so many cuisines around the world? Well, whoever’s responsible for turning this odd sea creature into tasty little morsels is quite the champ. And Busaba Eathai has got to have some of the tastiest squid on their menu.
I could happily just have a meal of Thai Calamari and tap water at Busaba. It’s a sweetly spiced side dish and is the restaurant’s biggest hit. They must be making a killing out of it, considering it’s less than a tenner for a kilo and they charge £4.70 a pop. But it is awesome and, luckily, very easily replicable.
I hunted around online for a recipe but only came across a message board where someone had taken the initiative to ring up the restaurant and ask them how it was made. Even with no exact measures it was fairly easy to follow and the ingredients are commonplace. The only hitch is that there is a fine line between over and under-cooked squid, and due to a really bad seafood-related food poisoning experience I get nervous eating fish I feel I haven’t cooked enough. My attempt resulted in more rubbery squid than I would’ve liked but the seasoning was very similar to Busaba Eathai’s.
2 squid tubes
100g plain flour
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg, white only
1 inch chunk of ginger
handful of fresh coriander
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sugar
0.5 tsp white pepper
Veggie / sunflower oil to deep fry
1. Clean squid tubes, and using a sharp knife cut along one side. Open it out flat facing what was the inner tube downward on chopping surface. Score the top, very lightly, diagonally into diamond shapes. Cut into 1 inch x 2 inch strips (if they are too big like mine were, they can be a bit of a mouthful and you will look very unattractive and uncomfortable while munching on them).
2. Beat the egg white gently in a bowl. Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Dip the squid pieces in the egg white thoroughly and coat in flour mixture.
3. Heat oil upto medium-high heat in a heavy based pan. Drop a little bit of batter into the oil and if it sizzles and floats up to the top you’re ready to rumble. Fry the squid pieces for a minute on each side (I went upto 5 minutes in total for half a batch and ended up with rubber pieces, whereas the 2 minute pieces tasted like love and tenderness). Leave aside to cool completely.
4. Put the coriander, ginger, white pepper, oyster sauce, sugar and peppercorns in a blender with 2 tbsp water and blitz till it turns into a paste. Simmer over medium heat in a saucepan for 4 minutes and toss the squid in. Stir till all the sauce is soaked up into the batter. Garnish with coriander and serve warm.