Like many foodies in the universe, what I cook depends on my mood.
Good or bad, high or low, my emotional status determines what will come out of the Thai Me Up Kitchen. Birthdays and breakups both end in cake. Bacon for Saturday lie ins. Popping champagne to celebrate getting that promotion, and cookie dough ice cream if you didn’t. Here’s real talk, friends; there is no better way to commemorate or commiserate life’s events than with food.
I like to make this Green Peppercorn Squid when in need of a pick me up. The fresh (slightly hard-to-find)* green peppercorns and baby squid do require some prep but that’s what I like about it. The preparation is escapism for me and gives my brain the opportunity to forget that the day should have ended with my morning coffee.
Inspired by the London’s renowned Thai eatery Basuba Ethai’s and their Thai Calamari, my version is a hotter, crunchier, and less sweet dish than the original. I promise your efforts will be tastily rewarded and, besides, nothing says ‘I win at life’ more than a mouthful of fried fabulousness.
Green Peppercorn Squid
½ banana shallot, roughly chopped
1 large handful coriander leaves and stems, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
30g fresh green peppercorns**
2 tsp white sugar
2 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
120g (3tbsp) oyster sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
6 (150g) baby squids, cleaned
100g cornflour, seasoned with salt and white pepper
1 egg white, beaten until fluffy
1L vegetable oil for frying
1. Using a small sharp knife, prepare the squid by slicing it open along one side, then diagonally score the inside of the squid (in 2mm intervals) making sure not to cut through the delicate skin. Turn the squid 90 degrees and score diagonally again. Cut the squid lengthwise in half.
2. Repeat this process with the rest of the squid. Set aside in a cool place until ready for use.
3. In a food processor blitz the banana shallot, coriander, galangal, garlic, 25g green peppercorns, shallot, sugar, and water into a paste.
4. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add the paste and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
5. With the side of a knife, crush the remaining 5g of green peppercorns, add to the saucepan along with the oyster sauce and rice vinegar. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
6. Set the sauce aside and keep warm. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little warm water to loosen the mixture.
7. Heat the litre of oil in a large, high sided heavy bottomed pan to 160C/350F.
8. Dredge the squid in the seasoned cornflour, then dip into the beaten egg white and back into the cornflour. Do this in small batches of about 5 pieces. Place directly and carefully into the fryer. Allow the squid pieces to fry for about 2 minutes, remove from the oil and drain on some kitchen paper.
9. Once all your squid is fried, drained and cooled. In a large bowl, very gently toss the squid in the sauce, ensuring all the pieces are coated evenly.
10. Top with chopped coriander and eat immediately.
*Fresh green peppercorns can be found in most reputable Oriental markets. Please do not substitute with brined peppercorns from a jar, keep those for a nice steak sauce. Only the real deal will do in this dish.
**To stop green peppercorns from maturing and turning black, keep refrigerated in a small resealable food bag with most of the air removed. The peppercorns will stay so fresh and so green for at least another week. Win.