Saturday, April 30, 2011

Malaysian Spicy Squid

When I was in Kuala Lumpur last summer, I stopped at Kinokuniya Bookstore inside the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (known locally as KLCC). My goal was to find a good Malaysian cookbook. The cookbook section was well-stocked and it took me quite a while to pick out my final choice: The New Malaysian Cookbook, authored by a Malaysian, Nor Zailina Nordin, and a Chinese Muslim, Fatihah Seow Boon Hor. It's a gorgeous cookbook that shows colorful illustrations of ingredients central to Malaysian cuisine. That's why I bought it; so I could familiarize myself with ingredients that I would need to shop for at my local Asian markets.

For a while, I've been toying the idea of making a squid dish. The recipe for spicy fried squid looked really attractive and colorful. I was determined to make it. So I found my way to the Super 88 Asian Supermarket where I picked up chili paste and chili sauce, galangal, fennel seeds and tomato puree. Everything else I had on my shelf.

The recipe is organized in four phases: preparing and marinating the squid; mixing the blended ingredients; making the spice paste, and; sauteeing everything bit by bit. It's not a technically difficult recipe, but it is a bit time-consuming. I dry-roasted the coriander and fennel seeds and ground them in a spice mill in order to have a better result. Powdered spices just do not compare to whole ones.

Bear in mind that you'll need to roast the candlenuts for a bit before using, as they are slightly toxic if consumed raw. I heated them in a non-stick pan until they browned.

So how did it taste? First of all, the bright red of the tomato puree, chili paste and chili sauce contrasted beautifully with the lightness of the squid and onion. This is a dish that you eat with your eyes as well as your taste buds. I thought that I had entered an altered state of reality. Seriously. The sauce was highly aromatic and fiery, which I absolutely love. And the sweetness of the sugar mixed nicely with the tomatoes and chilies. It was sublime. The squid absorbed the flavors well and the texture was perfect. (You must be careful not to overcook
squid or it become rubbery.) I served the squid over rice. I warn you -- my mouth was peppery for a good while after I finished eating the squid. It's very spicy, so be prepared.

600 g. squid (cleaned and sliced if large)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
salt and sugar to taste
60 ml oil
2 tablespoons chili paste
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon chili sauce
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon fennel powder
little water
2 tomatoes (quartered)
1 large onion (sliced into rings)
coriander leaves(finely chopped, for garnishing)
Mix from chili paste through fennel powder with water to make a paste.

Blended Ingredients
6 shallots
3 candlenuts
1 cm. ginger
1 cm. galangal

1. Marinate squid with white pepper, salt, and sugar.

2. Heat a quarter of the oil; fry squid until half-cooked. Remove from wok.

3. Heat the remaining oil; saute blended ingredients and spice paste till aromatic. Combine well and add water.

4. Continue stirring until the oil rises. Season with salt and sugar. (I found that it did not need any additional salt. And I ended up using about 1 tablespoon of sugar.

5. Put in fried squid and tomatoes. Stir completely and dish up onto a serving platter.

6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.


  1. oh looks great and I need to buy more cookbooks when traveling great idea, I got one in Turkey

  2. It was absolutely amazing!

    I'd love to go to Turkey. My mother lived there in the 1950s and loved it!