Grilled Squid Salad – 170 of 365

Fresh Squid In Market

Years ago I made a gumbo from scratch requiring me to chop a live crab in half and toss it in the water.  Mr. Crab made eye contact with me and I admit to then having trouble sacrificing him to the food gods.  After about thirty minutes I finally told him sorry as my cleaver whacked through that hard shell with a firm thud against the wooden cutting board.  Yes, cleaning seafood in its natural state is not at all pleasant.

Fast forward to Vietnam and a few months ago I worked up the courage to buy live prawns in the street market behind my apartment.  First, that I would buy anything other than fruits and vegetables from a sidewalk vendor was major progress in my food evolution, and second, I only needed about ten minutes of hand wringing this time before tossing these living critters in boiling water.  My how times have changed.

One of my favorite meals here in Vietnam is squid and I decided to once again dip into the seafood waters to make some myself.  I only wanted five pieces from the market but the girl wouldn’t sell such a small quantity and insisted on one kilogram or 2.2 pounds.  Now what I am going to do with 2 pounds of squid?  I’m thinking come on now, a sale is a sale.  I have money.  You have squid.  Let’s transact here.  In my most broken of broken of Vietnamese I finally managed to convince her to part with just half a kilo for a little under a dollar fifty.

Cleaning The Squid

Buying this mess turned out to be the least of the morning’s foolishness.  How does one even begin to clean something that squirts ink and has innards and eyes?  Google to the rescue.  Many articles say squid is sold already processed.  Well, what grocery paradise do these people live in? Obviously not one where shopping out of buckets on the street is the norm.

Here is but one example of the directions I had to follow:  Grasp the squid tail in one hand and the head in the other. Firmly pull apart with a slight twisting motion. The head and innards should easily slip out of the body.  Just nasty.  I pulled one head out and from inside the body shot a whole stinky fish it had swallowed.  I didn’t even know that squid eat fish and I was thoroughly repulsed by this spectacle.  I got to thinking what the [insert any and every expletive] am I doing here, yet I pressed on nonetheless.

Grilled Squid Salad

So I twisted heads, extracted guts, and even slid plastic like quills out of their bodies.  Even cutting the heads off of the tentacle end posed a bit of a grotesque factor as the inky sacs would burst and a small piece of cartilage called the “eye” needed removal.  Chefs spend good money on expensive squid ink and here I am flushing this liquid delicacy right down the drain.  A very thin outer skin needed a good peel as well to reveal the white flesh.

Now that I was the proud owner of some properly cleaned squid, I again turned to the internet for some Asian inspired recipes.  This one for grilled squid salad is Korean, but let’s just count it as Vietnamese since its origins were in the most local of Saigon street markets.

The nuttiness from the sesame oil blends so nicely with the spice of the chili pepper.  The nuts and carrots are a bit of a sweet foil to the savory squid.  I felt like I had been transported deep into Asia as I enjoyed every bite.  Never mind, I forgot briefly I already am here.  Buying whole squid should have been a reminder of that.  Prepping my own squid, nastiness and all, paid off nicely in the end.

Grilled Squid Salad (from July/August 2010 EatingWell)

1/4 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Korean chili powder (NOT the American kind!!!)

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger

1 pound cleaned squid tubes and/or tentacles

1/4 cup grated carrot

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, finely chopped

1. Whisk canola oil, vinegar, chili powder, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and ginger in a medium bowl. Set aside about 3 tablespoons in a small bowl for dressing.

2. Add squid tubes and/or tentacles to the remaining marinade. Turn to coat well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

3. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to grill, preheat a gas grill to high or prepare a charcoal fire. Brush the grill rack clean.

4. Lift the squid pieces one at a time from the marinade, letting the excess liquid drip back into the bowl. (Discard the marinade.) Grill the squid, turning once or twice, until lightly charred but still tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board; cut tubes into bite-size rings and leave tentacles whole or cut in half, if desired. Place in a medium bowl with the reserved dressing, carrot and pine nuts; toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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