“Crispy but tender squid with a hum of pepper heat, complemented by fragrant herbs, crispy garlic and a hit of vinegar – this is my evolution of the classic dish that I know you all love. Traditionally, it comes from Cantonese cuisine, where heat was achieved using finely ground peppercorns, but I couldn’t resist adding a few chillies here for double pleasure. ”
Pick the mint leaves into a small bowl of cold water to ensure they stay super-fresh.
Trim the spring onions and halve across the middle, then finely slice lengthways and add to the water bowl.
Pat the squid dry with kitchen paper, then use a regular eating knife to lightly score the inside of the squid at ½cm intervals at an angle. Turn the squid through 90° and do the same again to create a criss-cross pattern.
When you’re ready to cook, just under half fill a large sturdy pan with oil – the oil should be 8cm deep, but never fill your pan more than half full – and place on a medium-high heat. Use a thermometer to tell when it’s ready (170°C), or add a piece of potato and wait until it turns golden – that’s the sign that it’s ready to go.
While it heats, tip 1 heaped tablespoon of white pepper and the flour into a large bowl with a pinch of sea salt. Add the squid, toss and mix together to coat, then leave in the flour for a few minutes while you prick the chillies – if some are bigger, halve and deseed them first – then peel and finely slice the garlic 1mm thick, ideally on a mandolin (use the guard!).
When you’re ready to fry, add half the squid and chillies – it’s important to cook in two batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. When it’s all looking golden and lovely (after about 1½ minutes), add half the garlic for a final minute.
Use a slotted spoon to scoop everything into a bowl or pan lined with kitchen paper to drain while you cook the second batch.
Whip out the paper, then cut the squid into bite-sized pieces and return to the bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar, add a good pinch of seasoning, the drained mint leaves and spring onion curls, toss it all together and serve right away.