Sichuan Pepper and Fennel Calamari

Twice-fried, doubly delicious.

Twice-fried, doubly delicious: These calamari are an upgrade from the overbattered sort found in most restaurants. A fast turn in the wok is all you need here – squid can go rubbery when overcooked, so watch your time.

Serves | 4 to 6 as an appetizer |

  • 1 lb squid tubes and tentacles, cleaned, tubes sliced into thin rings
  • 2 Tbsp shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • ¾ tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups plus 2 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil, divided
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts in thin rings, greens trimmed and sliced lengthwise into very thin ribbons, divided
  • 1 Fresno chile, seeds removed, sliced into paper-thin rounds
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce (to serve)
  • ¼ cup garlic-chile sauce (to serve)
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp chile oil (to serve)

| Preparation | In a medium bowl, toss squid tubes and tentacles with rice wine; set aside for 30 minutes. In a small skillet, toast peppercorns and fennel seeds, flipping frequently, until fragrant; in a mortar and pestle, grind spices into a powder. In a large bowl, add ground spices, salt and pepper to flour and stir to incorporate.

Drain squid as much as possible, then toss with starch mixture. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate. Heat 4 cups oil in wok to 350°F; use a thermometer to carefully monitor temperature throughout work time. Working in batches, add squid pieces to oil and fry until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside on prepared plate to drain. When finished, carefully drain oil from wok into heatproof vessel and set aside to cool. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to wok and swirl to coat bottom and sides. Add scallion rings and chile, stirring constantly until fragrant. Add calamari and toss until golden and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add half of scallion greens and toss for 10 seconds, then remove to a platter, scattering scallions and chile rounds from wok over top.

| To Serve | Place light soy sauce, garlic-chile sauce and chile oil into individual dipping bowls and serve alongside calamari. Garnish with reserved ½ of scallions and serve.

Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning blogaperiodictableblog.com, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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