Spiced Salt & Pepper Calamari – crisp & tender calamari perfectly seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a touch of chili & a hint of Chinese 5-spice. A squeeze of lemon juice is all that’s needed to enjoy this simple starter.
All week I’m sharing recipes quintessentially Australian. January 26th marks Australia Day so in honor of the occasion & because I miss home, I thought it might be nice to do a little ode to my homeland through my recipes. Kicking off with a seafood starter – perfect enjoyed with an icy beer or your favorite chilled white.
A typical Aussie menu doesn’t contain much in the way of deep-fried foods: fish & chips along with salt & pepper calamari are the two that come to mind. Salt & pepper calamari is generally found on bistro, pub & club menus. When served as a main meal instead of a starter, a simple mix of baby lettuce leaves, lightly dressed, is the norm.
Growing up in a city by the ocean, seafood was plentiful. We had a fishmonger (‘Mike, the fish man’ we called him) who’d come to our house every Friday with his van brimming with fresh seafood on ice. A burly Greek man, always smiling, he’d toot the horn to alert his customers to his arrival. The freshest fish & seafood – whole fish, fish fillets, crustaceans, molluscs…I’d get as excited about Mike’s seafood as other kids got excited about the ice cream van. My love of seafood has never waned & it’s generally the first thing I eat when I arrive back home – prawns, oysters, fish & salt & pepper calamari. Sadly, being land-locked, I don’t have access to same day-caught seafood. I used these rings & tentacles I bought frozen & thawed. Not as good as fresh Aussie seafood but in a pinch these worked perfectly & were crunchy & tender.
Spiced Salt & Pepper Calamari
- 4 teaspoons sea salt flakes (or course sea salt)
- 4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper (chili flakes)
- 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 1/2 cup cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 lbs cleaned calamari rings & tentacles, patted dry
- canola, nut oil or coconut oil for deep-frying
- lemon wedges, for serving
- Combine salt, black pepper, chili pepper & spice together in a small dish.
- Place cornstarch & flour in a shallow bowl. Add half of the salt mixture & whisk to combine. Crack eggs into a bowl & whisk to break up. Working in batches, toss calamari in flour then egg then in the flour mixture again.
- Heat oil in a large wok or pot over high heat until 350F. Deep-fry calamari, four batches in hot oil for 2 minutes or until crisp & lightly golden. Drain on paper towel, sprinkling each batch with some of the salt mixture. Keep warm in the oven but best when served immediately with lemon wedges & any leftover salt mixture.