I’m a self-confessed recipe hoarder. Yellowed newspaper and magazine clippings lie in a folder loosely and strewn in the book shelf. Many of these recipes have never seen the light of day, but there’s a five-spice calamari recipe well worn with crinkles, and food stains, that has become my signature dish. Even the sternest of food critics in my family love this dish, so without fail I make it for Greek Easter, every year. The recipe is adapted from Red Rice’s Danni Dinh, from the Herald Sun circa 2002. Google tells me the restaurant is still in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, but I’m unsure whether the restaurant is still serving this calamari dish.
I’m fortunate to obtain calamari, fresh from my dad’s catch off a suburban pier in Melbourne, around March/April, but any good fishmonger will have fresh calamari.
3-4 Medium Sized Calamari
1 brown onion chopped finely
3 spring onions sliced finely diagonally
2-3 cloves garlic chopped
1 medium red chilli, chopped finely
1 medium red chilli for garnish (optional)
1 red capsicum diced
Pinch five spice powder
Splash dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
Season to taste with salt
Clean the bodies, ink sac, remove the eyes, and cartilage, and peel the off the bodies, keep all the tentacles. Cut open the bodies, and score the inside finely with a diagonal criss cross pattern, this is so that they curl up when cooked. Be careful not to cut right through. Slice into 2cm slices and cut into 5cm strips. Beat 1-2 eggs and toss the calamari in it, then drop into a plate of cornflour (ensure its derived from corn and not wheat) to coat lightly. Shake off excess.
Heat peanut oil in a deep nonstick wok, until hot. (ready when a piece of bread sizzles and bubbles or back of spoon). Plunge the coated calamari in briefly, and allow to crisp lightly. Do not overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. The excess cornflour does tend to accumulate in the bottom of the pan, so if starting to burn, remove oil, wipe pan and add fresh oil. Once all the calamari has been cooked, empty and wipe out the wok with paper towels, add a few tablespoons of oil, then cook the chopped garlic, onion, spring onion and capsicum and chilli all together. Return the calamari to the work, stir or toss quickly, season with salt and sugar, a pinch of five spice powder and a splash of Dry Sherry. You can also use Chinese rice wine. Place on a serving dish and garnish with sliced red chilli if desired. This can also be served with plain jasmine or basmati rice, but is great on its own.