Squid Pro Quo?

Earlier in the month, it was reported by the BBC that warmer waters around the UK has resulted in a greater supply of squid. These rubbery wonders normally live in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asian seas. In fact, worldwide, there’s been explosive growth in octopus and squid populations. Great news for all squid eaters out there…not so great news if you prefer your chips with cod.

Personally, I’m looking forward to obtaining freshly caught native squid rather than relying on the frozen version imported from Asia. For one thing, there’s a huge difference in taste between the fresh and frozen state.

Nutrition-wise, squid in its natural state is low-fat and low-calorie. Its high protein content, packed full of essential vitamins and minerals, makes it a great replacement for oily fish which suffers from over-fishing. Unfortunately, the most popular cooking method – deep-fried (aka Calamari or Salt & Pepper style), is also the most deliciously unhealthy!

So what’s the alternative? Well, for southern diaspora Chinese like myself, you can’t go wrong with stir frying in black bean and bell peppers. This dish has all you need for a balanced meal: protein, vegetables and healing spices. The earthy black bean gives the squid a rich aromatic  flavour.

To make this dish, my mum taught me two vital steps: scoring and blanching:

  1. Scoring creates a crisscross pattern and helps the squid to cook quickly to retain tenderness. Cut the squid body in half lengthwise, and open then flatten the inside of the squid. It should open out in one piece on the chopping board, with the inside surface facing up (remove any skin still attached to the flesh).Using a very sharp knife, place the knife at the corner edge of the squid at a 45 degree angle and make a light incision, making sure you don’t cut through. Leave a small gap (say ½ cm) and make another light incision underneath. Repeat the process until to you reach the other end of the squid. Now place the knife on the opposite corner (from the one you started at) and repeat the process. You want to create a crisscross pattern. Now cut the scored squid into large rectangles.
  1. Blanching cuts down the stir frying time and prevents overcooking of the squid. Put the cut up squid into a colander and place in the sink. Heat a kettle full of water and as soon as it comes to the boil, pour over the squid until the squid turns opaque and curls into a tube (note: if you scored the squid on the wrong side – from the outside facing up – then the you’ll end up without curly tubes!) Shake off all the excess water. Set the squid on paper towels and blot dry to remove excess moisture to ensure the squid is crisp and dry in the stir fry.

Here’s a quick demo to show you how easy it is!

Now here is the recipe for Stir Fried Black Bean Squid…

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 2-3 minutes maximum


  • 2 scored squid (round 300g)
  • ½ green, red and yellow bell pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 2 tablespoon fermented black bean (not the sauce version)
  • 1 one clove of garlic
  • 1 thumb size piece root ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch
  • 1  teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 8 tablespoons water
  • boiling kettke water (for blanching)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • Chopping board
  • Very sharp knife
  • Bowls  – big and small
  • Colander
  • Kitchen paper towels
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Wooden chopsticks or spoon
  • Serving plate


  1. Dice the onion, bell peppers into 2cm small squares into a bowl.
  2. Crush the black bean then add peeled garlic and ginger. Finely mince all three together before transferring into a small bowl.
  3. In another small bowl, dissolve the potato starch, salt, oyster sauce in the water. Measure out two tablespoon of vegetable oil in a separate bowl.
  4. Prepare squid following the two steps mentioned above: Scoring and blanching.
  5. Assemble all your ingredients next to stove and place the non-stick frying pan on highest heat setting.
  6. Add one drop of water to the pan, if it evaporates on contact, immediately add the vegetable oil and swirl the oil around the pan.
  7. Add the bowl of chopped black bean, garlic and ginger and toss in pan until they start releasing their aromas.
  8. Now add the onion and bell peppers and stir fry for 1 minute before adding the squid, toss all ingredient together for 30 seconds.
  9. Restir the potato starch mixture and add to the pan, stir fry for another 30 seconds and then transfer to a serving dish
  10. Serve with plain cooked rice and pair with a good quality oaked chardonnay!


NO NEED TO BUY A WOK! If, like me, you live in home with an electric cooker then a good old fashion FLAT bottom non-stick pan is so much better for cooking.

You can still achieve great stir fry dishes with a good quality shallow saucepan. Follow these 3 vital rules about stir frying:

  1. Preparation. Cut all your ingredients into small pieces of similar size to ensure they cook evenly at the same time. Assemble all ingredients including sauces next to the pan when you are ready to cook.
  2. High heat. The pan needs to be very hot when you add oil then the herbs and spices. You should hear and smell a glorious loud sizzle! Keep the heat on high throughout the cooking process.
  3. No overcrowding. Cook in small batches – you want your ingredients to SEAR not steam to retain crisp textures. Water being produced from ingredients in the pan is a sign of steaming so keep your eyes on it!

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