Sambal Sotong (Squid cooked in Chilli paste)

Monday, November 18, 2013


I love to eat squid and I like it cooked whichever way.

Squid is prized for it's succulent texture. In Southeast Asian cuisine, it is often paired with strong and robust sauces.

If I were to order from a Nasi Padang stall, I would almost always choose a squid dish, especially Sambal Sotong or when it is cooked in it's own black ink: Sotong Goreng Hitam.

The fresh Arrow Squid is really cheap at about $10 per kilo and fresh when you buy it in wet markets. With the escalating price of prawns recently, I will say sotong will be the way to go.

It can of course be easily overcooked and this may be one reason why it is not cooked as often in homes.

You may have heard of the 3-20 minute rule. You either cook it fast under 3 minutes to get a succulent crunchy texture or go beyond 20 minutes for a longer braise to tenderise it. If you cook it quickly to 55-57C, it will be just right. At 60C it will shrink as the collagen layers contract.

Unless I am using Sous Vide, I do not bother to measure the temperature of course. I just cook it for about 2-3 minutes and visually, you can see if it it overcooked as the body (or rings if you have sliced it) will shrink.

Just cook it in smaller batches if you are not sure.

Cleaning it is fast and easy. You can leave the skin on if you like, but skinning the squid is easy. Be careful with the ink sac. If you have not cleaned squid before, just google. There are videos online that will show you how. But it is really a no-brainer.

Do give the squid a good wash to remove the slime. As you are going for a quick cook, it is better to use a properly cleaned squid.

Now as for the sambal chilli, it is very similar to the chilli you use for Nasi Lemak or Sambal Prawns. I will give you a recipe but this is one dish where you can choose to have variations with the sambal. The essential ingredients are the chilli and onions. Variations will add blended lemon grass or kafir lime leaves, toasted belachan, vinegar, tamarind paste or lime juice, sugar and so on. You can use coconut oil instead. Dried chillies have a deeper flavour and I prefer it over fresh chillies when I am using the sambal with seafood.

My Mum has made this many times but I do not have her recipe, I just experiment till I get it the way I like it. Here is my recipe.

Sambal Sotong Recipe

1 kg of large Squid
6 pieces of large red onions (about 500-600 gms)
15 pieces of dried chilli
2 stalks of lemon grass
200 ml oil (about a small bowl)
2t salt
1 small piece of belachan or 1t of belachan powder
Some lime juice

Method
  1. Prepare the squid. Clean and wash it. Cut it into rings, half a cm thick. 
  2. Slice 3 pieces of the onions into rings. 
  3. Blend the soaked dried chillies, white bottom part of the lemon grass along with the rest of the onions into a fine paste.
  4. Heat up the wok. Toast the belachan first and add the oil.
  5. Then add the paste and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the salt and sugar along the way. Taste along the way to get the right balance. 
  6. Then add the onion rings. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  7. Add the squid in. Stir. Remove after 2 minutes and plate.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves, a dash of lime juice and serve it with fresh sliced cucumber and tomatoes. 

Cooking Notes
  1. You can cook the squid whole. Just place it in the sambal and simmer for 3 minutes, turning it around occasionally. You can serve it nicely plated in its own shape but sliced.  
  2. The key is to make a good sambal. For that you need to caramelise the onions patiently. When I am simmering my sambal, I like to be able to see a thin layer of oil on top, with some little bubbling. This guides me in determining how much oil to use. 
  3. I add half of the onions later so that they can be enjoyed along with the squid.  
  4. While I am recommending cooking the squid no more than 2 minutes, it really depends on the quantity, fire and type of wok you are using. Please adjust. As I always say, do some thinking as you cook and you will be fine. 
  5. Slightly overcooked squid is no disaster. If it is rubbery, it means it is way overcooked as you were busy texting on your smartphone. Or maybe you were staring blankly, blur as sotong as your squid turns into rubber. Hmm...what can I say? 2 minutes=120 seconds, just in case you use a different measuring unit for time. 
It is not difficult. Cook a good sambal chilli that you like. Then quick cook the squid in it.


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