Blue Ginger Crispy Calamari
Fried calamari with a dipping sauce is one of America's most popular starters.
That's understandable: Pair crispy squid with a tantalizing sauce and you've got great eating. This spice-fragrant version is superior in every way. A preliminary marination helps ensure tender squid, as does quick frying. You can grind toasted whole spices or toast them already ground. Fresh and frozen squid work equally well here, but if you buy fresh, you get to ask your fish seller to clean the squid for you. (And make sure he gives you the tentacles-the best part!)
I recommend flat strainers for moving the squid from its marinating bath to the coating mixture, and to help with the coating; they're a small investment with a big convenience payoff (or use regular large strainers). In any case, you'll love the dish as much as our Blue Ginger diners do. Whenever I teach this dish to cooks, I make sure they understand the importance of listening as the squid cooks. As soon as the oil's bubbling sound dies away the squid is done.
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon ground white peppercorn
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Canola oil, for frying
2 cups Thai Lime Dipping Sauce, plus 1/2 cup, for dipping
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sweet-potato flour or cornstarch
2 pounds calamari, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch rings
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
- In a small frying pan, combine the cumin, coriander, fennel, and white peppercorns. Toast over medium heat, stirring, until just smoking, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool and transfer to a small serving bowl or ramekin. Add the salt and mix. Set aside.
- Fill an electric fryer with the oil to the designated mark, or fill a small stockpot one-third full. Heat the oil to 375°F.
- Place a flat strainer in a large bowl into which it just fits and fill the bowl with the Thai Lime Dipping Sauce. In another large bowl, combine the flours.
- Working in batches, place the calamari in the first bowl and marinate for 10 seconds only. Using the strainer, lift the calamari from the bowl and transfer it to the bowl with the flours. With a second flat strainer, dip and lift the calamari in the flours, coating it so no moisture is detectable. Shake the squid in the strainer to remove all excess coating.
- Transfer the squid to the oil and fry only until the bubbling sound dies away, 30 to 45 seconds. (The calamari will have colored to a golden brown.) Using a flat strainer, transfer the squid to paper towels to drain. Season the squid with the flavored salt, garnish with the scallions, and serve immediately with the dipping sauce.
To make a fabulous crispy calamari hoagie, smear a split submarine roll generously with Korean Tartar Sauce (see Ming's Tip) or homemade or store-bought tartar sauce, then add chopped Romaine lettuce leaves, or your favorite salad greens.
Drizzle with Thai Lime Dipping Sauce or fresh lime juice, top with freshly cooked crispy calamari, add some more lettuce, and top with the remaining bread.