This calamari is super easy to cook on a charcoal grill, which also helps to retain the flavour and sweetness of the calamari. Give it a go!
- 2 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) whole calamari, cleaned and rinsed, hoods and tentacles separated (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
- cooking oil spray
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) long red chillies
- 2 garlic cloves
- 30 g (1 oz) sea salt
- ½ bunch mint
- ½ bunch Vietnamese mint
- 1 butter (bibb) lettuce, leaves separated (optional)
Green chilli dipping sauce
- 2 long green chillies, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Preheat the oven to 100°C (210°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. To make the chilli salt, use a mortar and pestle to pound the chillies and garlic to a paste. Add the salt and pound until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tray, spread out in an even layer and dry in the oven for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the salt, moving the mixture around every 5–7 minutes so that the salt dries evenly and doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
3. To make the green chilli dipping sauce, place all the ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth sauce. Check the seasoning - it should be sweet, sour, salty and spicy - and adjust with a little more sugar, lime juice or fish sauce if necessary. Leftover sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
4. Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a barbecue grill to high. Spray the calamari with a little cooking oil and sprinkle with the chilli salt.
5. When the charcoal grill is ready (the embers should be glowing red with a small flame on the charcoal), place the calamari on the grill and cook each side for 3–5 minutes until the flesh turns white. Be careful not to overcook the calamari; otherwise it will be tough.
6. Transfer the calamari to a serving plate, and place in the centre of the table, along with a serving platter of the herbs and lettuce (if using) and green chilli dipping sauce. Slice the calamari hoods into rings and the tentacles into smaller pieces. Invite guests to wrap pieces of calamari in the herbs and lettuce and dip into the green chilli dipping sauce.
Recipe from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99