When I visited London last week I used the opportunity to get a small taste of the variety of Chinese food on offer and to rue the absence of a wide range of Chinese cuisine in restaurants here in Ireland. I will write up the little I learned in the coming days but meanwhile two dishes caught my eye – one was an unusual dish of a tempura style cauliflower which I had in YMing in Greek Street, Soho. I wrote about my lovely experience in in the restaurant last week. The manager at YMing served the cauliflower to me with prawns.
The second was a dish of chilli fried squid with oatmeal and curry leaf which I had for lunch at Yauatcha, Broadwick St, London, an upmarket dim sum restaurant, resembling a night club, recommended to me by Kevin Hui of the China Sichuan in Sandyford, Dublin.
I set out to try and recreate both dishes at home tonight using Irish cauliflower, squid from my favourite south Co. Dublin fishmongers Roberts of Dalkey and good old Flahavan’s Porridge Oats – the multi-seed variety – which is one of the Love Irish Food brands.
I based the recipe on Fuschia Dunlop’s traditional Salt and Pepper Squid – Jiao Yan You Yu – which she included in her recent book Every Grain of Rice and I also took into account what I learnt about preparing seafood inside the kitchen of the China Sichuan.
It was only tonight that I realised that the jiao yan of “salt-and-pepper” is three parts salt to one part ground roasted Sichuan pepper and an extremely versatile seasoning and dip.
I also have to admit that I didn’t know what curry leaves were until my Twitter pals enlightened me this evening and then I only managed to find them thanks to a closing-time dash by Peter of Roberts of Dalkey to nearby Select Stores where he grabbed the last remaining pack they had in stock. Now that’s what I call service.
Chili fried squid with Flahavan’s multi seed oatflakes and curry leaf
See second and more successful attempt at cooking this dish here!
- 2 – 3 small squid cleaned
- 1 tbs of Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 egg white lightly beaten
- 3 – 4 tbs potato flour
- Salt and white pepper
- About 400 ml of sunflower oil
- 2 tbs chopped garlic
- 2 tbs finely sliced spring onion whites
- 1 – 2 tbs of fresh red chilli
- 2 – 3 tbs of Flahavan’s multi seed oat flakes
- Small handful of curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp ground roast Sichuan pepper mixed with 3/4 tsp table salt
- 2 tbs finely slice spring onion greens
- Slice open the body of the squids along their length, lay on a flat surface and with a sharp knife or cleaver score at an angle in parallel lines about 5 mm apart, being careful not to slice them through. Turn 45 degrees and score again in parallel lines so that you have a cross hatch effect. Once scored, cut the squid into bite size, chop stick friendly pieces about 3 cm wide.
- Marinade the squid pieces briefly in the Shaoxing rice wine mixing with your hand.
- Heat the oil in a wok to 180 degrees – you can tell when bubbles are forming on the surface or drop in a cube of bread to see if it cooks golden in a few moments.
- Drain the squid well then mix with your hand in the egg white and seasoned potato flour.
- Tip half the squid pieces into the oil and deep fry until lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon or strainer and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remainder of the squid.
- Drain off all but about 2 tbs of oil. Add the garlic, spring onion whites and chilli and briefly stir fry over a medium heat to release the aromas. Add in the oat flakes and curry leaves and stir to release the scent of the curry leaves and fry the oat flakes.
- Increase the heat to high, return the squid and add the Sichuan salt and pepper mixture to the wok, tossing and stirring to combine the flavours.
- Finally add the spring onion greens, mix well and serve.
Salt and Pepper Cauliflower
- A head of cauliflower broken into florets
- 1 egg white lightly beaten
- 2 – 3 tbs of potato flour lightly seasoned
- 400 ml sunflower oil for deep frying heated to 180 degrees
- Salt and Sichuan pepper mix – 1/4 tsp ground roast Sichuan pepper mixed with 3/4 tsp table salt – use to taste.
- Plunge the cauliflower florets into a pot of boiling water to which you have added a dash of sunflower oil and some salt. Blanch for one minute then drain and cool.
- Using your hand, mix the cauliflower florets with the egg white and a little seasoned potato flour.
- Deep fry, in batches if necessary, until golden, drain on kitchen paper and toss with a little of the salt and Sichuan pepper, to taste, before serving.
Confessions of a learner cook:
Once again these two dishes tasted delicious but I’ve a bit more work to do on presentation. I was able to cook the cauliflower in the oil being heated for the squid and drain it while re-heating the oil for the squid.
The cauliflower cooked this way was crispy, light and delicious.
Go easy on the salt and Sichuan pepper seasoning in both dishes – it’s delicious but quite salty so only season to taste.
I made a few mistakes with the squid – I didn’t score it in sufficiently narrow lines (ok I will admit it, I mixed up my mms and cms…) which meant the surface wasn’t as “crinkly” as I would have liked and I cooked it in one batch rather than two which caused some of the pieces to stick together. I also forgot to add the green parts of the spring onion at the very end so I missed the chance to deliver that extra dash of colour.
All the same the squid was tender and tasty with none of the rubbery texture you sometimes encounter. The oat flake and curry leaf mixture combined beautifully with the more traditional garlic, chilli and spring onion and the salt and Sichuan pepper to create it’s very own “umami” taste sensation. I loved the crunchy texture the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in the oat flake mix gave to the dish. You could make an extra large portion of this and store it in a sealed container to use as a garnish.
So the verdict:
Definitely a winner in the flavour stakes with new, improved photos coming up in the next few days.