I’ve always thought fried calamari is kind of dull. It’s a wonderful thing turned into junk food. Go to a decent Vietnamese place and order any simple stir-fried squid and you’ll regret those years of eating the stuff fried.
We frequent Lucky Strike primarily because it’s close. The food occupies that land between mediocre and not so great, but the place has a nice vibe and they’re good to kids. The fries are addictive, the burgers suck, and somehow they manage to make a grilled salmon greasier than those great fries. The fried calamari is particularly lousy. I’m not sure which is worse: the wimpy, paper-thin coating or the chewy, intensely frozen-tasting squid.
If you’re going to eat fried calamari, you need two things: good squid and a good fry. You can simply dust the stuff lightly in flour and it’ll fry up well. We decided to give it the full junk food treatment: flour, egg, flour dredge and a dunk in hot oil.
And of course we couldn’t resist the Vietnamese twist, serving it with rice, mint, and fish sauce. You could roll these up in a lettuce leaf or rice paper also. Either way, they’re a delicious improvement on your standard fried calamari.
(Note: We used sushi rice, which is awesome, but feel free to go with Jasmine or any long grain.)
Fried Calamari w/ Fish Sauce and Mint
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1 cup sushi rice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ pound squid
1 cup flour divided among two bowls.
1 egg, beaten
mint leaves, coarsely chopped
oil for frying
- Rinse the rice well three times, refreshing the water each time then let soak for an hour in clean water. Drain and add to a small pot with 2 cups water. Set over medium heat until simmering and reduce the liquid to the level of the rice then cover, lower heat and cook until done.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved.
- When the rice is done, let sit for five minutes then turn out into a bowl, preferably wooden. Using a wooden spoon, cut gently through the rice to break it up, and pour in the dressing. When it is incorporated, let it cool. Use immediately or gather in a mound in the bowl, cover with a moist towel. To use up to 12 hours in advance, store at room temperature in a tight-fitting container.
- To make the squid: Line a tray with paper towels. Heat a few inches of oil in a small pot. In batches, dredge lightly in flour, then egg, then the second bowl of flour. Tap off excess and add to the oil. Fry until crisp and lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to prepared tray and fry the remaining squid. Season with salt
- Serve in bowls with rice and plenty of fish sauce. Shower with mint.