how to make salt & pepper squid

Toss crunchy-coated, perfectly cooked squid (or calamari) together with a hedonistic spice mix and you have a simple but very fabulous appetizer. All it could possibly need is a spritz of lemon and it’s ready to be gobbled-up by hungry guests.

spiced salt and pepper squid

It’s a cringe-worthy moment for me when I hear someone say they don’t like squid (or calamari) because it’s tough and chewy. Sad that it gets a bad rap from people who’ve only eaten it prepared by someone who either doesn’t know how to cook it or doesn’t care – as in would-be cooks at certain restaurants. Cooked correctly, this delicately flavored cephalopod is tender and delicious. So please don’t judge it too harshly, it’s not its fault for being subjected to over-cooking and bland marinara dipping sauces.

I like preparing seafood so I buy most of my seafood not cleaned. Squid (and calamari) are no exception. For those of you who have little to no interest in cleaning seafood, that’s perfectly fine. Cleaned squid (and calamari) hoods (or tubes) are easy to find fresh or frozen in most grocery stores and seafood markets. So if you’re opting for the cleaned alternative then this recipe is only going to take you mere minutes to make. Literally.

uncleaned squid



Cleaning is the first step but if you’re buying cleaned squid or calamari cleaned, then buy whole hoods (or tubes). Cutting these into triangles makes them curl-up. 
cutting squid into triangles

The next steps are really easy and will guarantee you crispiness and golden perfection so don’t skip this step of coating in self-rising flour and oil.

coating the squid

Then when it’s all coated you want to toss it in batches in cornstarch (cornflour for the Aussies). Do this in batches though or you’ll end up in a mess. Who am I kidding, you’ll end up in a mess anyway. Holy crap you should have seen our kitchen when I got done.

squid coated in cornstarch


I tossed the squid in cornstarch on waxed paper. It was only afterwards I thought a re-sealable bag would have made a MUCH wiser choice so if you have one handy – USE A BAG. That will help lessen the mess. Then you cook the squid or calamari in hot oil, toss it in some green onions, garlic and chilies and voila! Perfection!

close up spiced salt and pepper squid

I’m not going to get into the whole squid verses calamari debate here suffice to say they are different (regardless of what you’ve read) but belong to the same family and in this recipe, they’re interchangeable so it is up to you whichever you choose – both will work.

crunchy squid

All that’s really important here is squid and calamari prefer either very quick, high heat or low and slow heat. For this recipe we’re going for hot and quick… and ladies and gentlemen there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

spiced salt and pepper squid

  •  1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chicken boullion powder (or a large cube, crumbled)
  • 3 lbs (1.5kg) whole squid or calamari (or 2 1/4 pounds cleaned hoods/tubes)
  • 1/2 cup self-rising (raising) flour
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
  • 1 cup cornstarch (cornflour)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 small red chilies, thinly sliced
  • lemon wedges, to serve
  • Thai sweet chili sauce, to serve
  1. Combine ginger, salt, five-spice powder, pepper and boullion powder in a small bowl.
  2. If using squid that hasn’t been cleaned, clean the squid by pulling the tentacles away from the body. Wash out tube and carefully remove quill (backbone) and ink sack and discard. Peel skin from squid if desired.
  3. Insert a small knife into squid hood and cut it open so it lays flat on a cutting board. Cut squid into triangles as shown in picture. The reason for this is so they curl when cooked.
  4. Combine half of the spiced salt and pepper mixture, self-rising flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in a large bowl (you want the mixture to be like a thick but runny paste. Add squid; stir to coat thoroughly.
  5. Place cornstarch on a piece of waxed paper and toss squid in cornstarch until well coated; shake away excess. Alternatively you can put cornstarch in a re-sealable bag and add squid in batches and shake to coat. Both ways work perfectly.
  6. Heat enough oil to deep-fry in a wok or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook squid in batches for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden – do not overcook. Remove with slotted spoon or a wire basket (spider) to a wire rack. Sprinkle with some of the remaining spiced salt and pepper mixture; keep warm.
  7. In a clean wok or large frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of extra vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add green onions, garlic and chilies. Stir-fry 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat and add all the cooked squid; toss to combine. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and sweet chili sauce if desired. Serves 4 as an appetizer.


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  1. Lawrence says:

    These are amazing! You cannot stop devouring them!

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