Salt & pepper squid with aioli

Ask your fishmonger to clean fresh baby squid for you - and make sure you get the tentacles as well. You can buy Sichuan pepper and potato starch from Asian supermarkets. Cornflour is an acceptable alternative to potato starch. Try making the aioli with roasted garlic instead of fresh. Prawns are cracking with the salt and pepper mix. The spice rub is also terrific with quail.


  • 6 baby squid, cleaned
  • ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1½ tsp sea salt
  • Oil, for deep frying
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • 1 long red chilli, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 spring onions, sliced

  • For the aioli
  • ½ cup whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, finely crushed
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper


Cut each squid down the body so it opens up into one piece. Cut diagonal lines at 5mm intervals halfway into the flesh itself, but try not to cut all the way through. Roughly cut each squid into 5cm squares. Cut tentacles into about 5cm lengths.

Heat Sichuan peppercorns in a dry wok on a low heat until they become fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and place in a mortar with the salt. Pound together using a pestle until finely ground.

To make the aioli simply whisk the mayonnaise together with the crushed garlic, lemon juice and seasoning.

Heat oil in a wok to 180°C; check this by putting a small cube of bread in it, which should turn brown in 15 seconds.

Place egg white in a bowl. Whisk well, then add squid. Mix well, working the egg white into the squid. Place potato flour in another bowl and lightly dust squid pieces in the flour, shaking off any excess.

Carefully add the battered squid to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the wok so the oil keeps its heat. Fry in batches and make sure the oil has reached the correct temperature again before adding more. Cook for about 3 minutes, until a crust forms. Remove squid with a metal strainer and drain on a paper towel.

Drain oil from wok into a metal container, leaving about 1 tbsp oil in wok. Return wok to a medium heat. Add chilli, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry for a minute. Put the fried squid back in, sprinkle the mix of Sichuan pepper and salt over the top and toss together briefly.

NOTES: First published in the Good Weekend. Photography by William Meppem and Jennifer Soo. Styling by Hannah Meppem. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.

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