Fried pepper squid

Serves 8
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Indy Lifestyle Online

We escaped Hong Kong city on our last night on the recommendation of Nick Pegna, John's colleague who runs Berry Brothers in Hong Kong. He took us by boat to his local in a fishing village called Sok Kwu Wan. Our destination was the Lamma Hilton, a harbourside restaurant decked out with plastic tables and chairs and tanks full of live fish and shellfish. I, of course, went for the most obscure shellfish, such as mantis shrimp, abalone, mud crab and species of scallops and sea snails that I'd never even set eyes on before. I've also never witnessed such an extravagant use of garlic; most of the dishes had a layer of puréed garlic on them - perhaps to keep the fishermen's wives away.





First, though, we had a plate of fried pepper squid. It was simple and delicious with flecks of coarsely ground black pepper suspended in the light batter. The Chinese use a special self-raising flour for their batters, but you could also use tempura batter or self-raising flour.

600g cleaned squid or cuttlefish, including tentacles
200g Chinese self-raising flour
1tbsp coarsely ground or mignonette (cracked) black pepper
Iced water to mix
Salt
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Sweet chilli dipping sauce to serve

Pre-heat 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Cut the squid or cuttlefish into 4-5cm x 1/2cm strips and separate the tentacles, then dry well on kitchen paper. In a mixing bowl with the flour, whisk in enough iced water to make a smooth batter, then season with salt and add the cracked pepper. Test a piece of squid by dipping it in the batter and frying till crisp. If the batter is too thick or thin, adjust accordingly with more water or flour and add more salt to taste. You will need to fry the squid in smallish batches depending on how many you're cooking for and keep the pieces warm until it's all cooked. Serve with the dipping sauce.

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