Salt and pepper squid is a Cantonese dish on the menu of many Chinese restaurants. It is often ordered as a takeaway dish because it is an easy appetiser and you can cook it at home too!
We tested various recipes and came up with the best one to get you started on frying up this tantalising treat.
What is it?
Salt and pepper squid is squid cut into bite-sized rings, then coated in cornstarch before deep frying. The cornstarch gives it a light, airy crunch. The seafood is fried in various spices such as ginger, scallion and hot green peppers for that burst of flavour. Some recipes include the Chinese 5-spice powder as well.
History of the dish
Salt and pepper squid has Cantonese origins and so probably travelled from Guangzhou to the West. Yet, it is hard to trace where exactly did it come from. Cookbooks have little reference to the dish origin, but what seems to be clear is that this humble Asian dish has made its way around the world.
It is very popular not just in the UK, but also in Australia and in Italy. This ubiquitous dish does not just appear in Asian restaurants, but in pubs, cafes, and even fish and chip shops. In fact, the Australians have even debated adopting it as their national dish!
A serving of salt and pepper squid has 398 calories.
How to serve
To enjoy Salt and pepper squid, you can use tartare sauce or aioli as a dip or squeeze lemon juice over it. While you can certainly eat this dish alone, it is best to serve it with other popular Chinese dishes, such as fried rice, chow mein, or potstickers.
We recommend shrimp chow mein as rice helps to absorb the greasiness of this dish, so you will not get an oily aftertaste. If you want to cook this dish with rice, then check out our authentic shrimp chow mein recipe to learn how to cook it.
This section will look at key ingredients you need to make salt and pepper squid. You will need squid tubes, Shao Xing wine, sesame oil, all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and cornmeal. Buy salt and white pepper if you do not have them in your kitchen. You can find all these ingredients at any Asian supermarket or online.
This recipe is similar to fried calamari. If you swap the seafood in the salt and pepper squid recipe for chicken wings, you'll make Hong Kong salt and pepper chicken wings.
In selecting fresh squid, the flesh has to be firm and plump. The smell of seafood has to smell like the ocean, without a fishy aroma. Too many ice crystals signify freezer burn for frozen seafood, which means the shop has stored the raw meat for too long. That is not good as the dish will not taste fresh. So choose your seafood carefully if you want your final product to taste great.
If you want a keto version of this Chinese takeaway dish, the goal is to create a salt and pepper squid batter low in carbs.
You can create the batter from a third of a cup's worth of unflavoured protein powder as a substitute for flour, mixed with two teaspoons of coconut flour and one teaspoon of salt. Fry the dish with this batter and add black ground pepper to taste.
Salt and pepper squid batter must be free of rye, wheat, or barley for a gluten-free version. So, use tapioca flour or potato flour to make the batter.
Fry the seafood covered in these flours and add two whisked egg whites, pepper and salt to taste. Use extra virgin olive oil to deep fry. You can also add mint and parsley to your Salt and Pepper squid for a refreshing taste.
An additional note on flours: Tapioca will result in a thinner coating. For a crispier texture, choose potato flour.
In this section, we'll look at some time-saving tips to make your salt and pepper squid successful. The first way is to purchase squid tubes that are already cleaned rather than buying the whole seafood. This move saves a lot of time!
Another tip is to use ground white pepper. Asian cooks use this pepper to get an intense aroma and spicy tingle. Since the dish does get greasy, use a paper towel and soak up excess oil, so your final dish is light and crispy.
While this might be common sense for some, still we thought we should drop a gentle reminder not to mix raw food with cooked food in the refrigerator. Also, do not use the same utensils or cutting boards or even plates for other food when you are cooking your Salt and Pepper squid. If you do this, it will cause food poisoning!
The way to store the seafood is to cover it in an airtight container and place it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. You will need to cook the seafood within two days, especially if you have bought it frozen since you cannot refreeze frozen meat. Before using frozen seafood, just let it thaw in the refrigerator, or place it under cold running water. Do not leave it out at room temperature.
Using an Airfryer
We recommend using an air fryer to make healthy salt and paper squid if you are health conscious. An air fryer does not require oil to cook and draws the heat from the surrounding air, so the dish turns out less greasy. You should preheat the air fryer to 180 degrees celsius (350degrees F). Place your seafood into the air fryer basket after dipping it into the batter.
Set your timer for five minutes and place the seafood inside. Take it out and spray with a tiny bit of olive oil before popping it back in to fry another 8 minutes. You'll get crispy Salt and Pepper squid, not fried by the wok!
You can also make air fryer salt and pepper chips with this recipe.
Using an oven
A healthier option to deep frying, use an oven for baking salt and pepper squid. First, you'll need to preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (380 F). Then line your trays with baking powder.
After mixing all you need for your batter (flour, salt and pepper), submerge your seafood into the batter and coat it thoroughly. Then place them on a baking tray, leaving space between them. Bake them in the oven for 16-20 minutes, turning them halfway.
Salt and Pepper Squid Recipe | Easy Chinese Takeaway
- 1 ½ pound squid
- ¾ cups Shaoxing wine
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 5 cups vegetable oil
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup semolina flour
- ½ cup plain cornmeal
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 4-6 pcs chillies thinly sliced
- 3-4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper ground
- 2 long hot green peppers
- Prepare your squid by rinsing in cold water. Cut the tentacles and make sure each piece is bite-sized.
- Add the squid, together with wine, minced garlic, ginger, salt, and stir to combine all the ingredients. Let the squid marinate and set aside.
- Heat the oil until it shimmers or is about 180 degrees Celcius in a large frying pan or skillet. Get the dry mixture ready by combining all the flours, salt and white pepper in a bowl.
- Coat the marinated salt and pepper squid with potato starch, then drop them in the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes before flipping over.
- Next, remove the pieces and coat the squid in the dry mixture. Coat them with the mix before frying the squid again.
- While frying, add vegetable oil, ginger, sliced chillis, and garlic. Stir around the wok and continue to add peppers as needed. Once the pieces are golden brown, your dish is ready!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
We also recommend you check out Cooking with Robin Stone’s method of preparing this dish. She prepares her own blend of spice powder that includes Sichuan peppercorn as well as cayenne pepper. In addition, she uses tapioca starch as a means of creating a lighter and crispier texture for her calamari.
Whether you use chicken or seafood with this recipe, we think you won't go wrong with this popular Chinese takeaway dish. It is a great treat for family nights or for binging in front of a new Netflix drama. Of course, eating it with rice or chow mein is equally delicious.
If you've tried it, share your success with us on Instagram and tag us @honestfoodtalks. We love to see your homecooked meals!