I’m not quite sure what the origin of this scandalously indulgent dish is, so I am going to assume that it is one of our signature Sri Lankan hybrid specialties. All I know is that hot buttered cuttlefish suddenly appeared on a menu and boom! Everybody was going ga ga over it – and rightly so.
Hot butter cuttlefish or calamari as some of us may know it, is every spicy loving oily food junky’s piece of heaven – or should I say, pieces of heaven. It is spicy with just the right amount of sweetness, thick crunchy batter providing plenty of texture and soft juicy morsels of cuttlefish underneath. Every bite is a nuclear explosion of flavour! Who can say no to that!
For more subtlety loving palates (such as Yours Truly’s) this dish is a very rude, yet very much welcome awakening. My palate is like “how DARE you be so offensive!” and then secretly enjoys it, very very much. Because the flavours are amazing, the harmony divine yet a tad too close to hell because something so good must be so bad. Well, you know what they say about bad boys – forbidden pleasure, but oh-so-tempting!
Okay, enough rambling. Let’s get down to business. The pictures are not good at all due to the fact that they were taken at night (this is an attempt to balance the sweet and savoury element of the blog since I make most of my savoury things at night, and they don’t last the night, they don’t get captured here. So this is me trying to remedy that).
- Prep Time : 45 minutes
- Cook Time : 20 minutes
- Yield : 8 servings
- Cuttlefish (Calamari) - 500g (Cleaned)
- Cornstarch - 100g
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Egg - 1
- Milk - 100ml
- Butter - 100g
- Vegetable oil - for deep frying
- Chili paste - 5tbsp
- Spring onion (Scallion) - 50g, chopped
- Big onion - 1, chopped into rings
- Fresh ginger paste - 2 tsp
- Fresh garlic paste - 3 tsp
- Sugar - 4 tbsp
- Dark soy sauce - 1 tsp
- Oyster sauce - 1 tsp
Preparing the calamari
- Wash the cuttlefish thoroughly, inside and out.
- Cut the calamari into inch width pieces (rings). Using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, make thin, diagonal cuts on one side of the ring without cutting all the way through. This will make your cuttlefish curl up like a flower when they are fried and will also make them softer under the crispy coating.
- Soak the calamari in milk for 3-4 hours. This will make the cuttlefish softer and prevent it from becoming rubbery.
- After soaking the calamari, drain out the milk and dry the calamari on kitchen towels. Season with salt and pepper.
- Coat with the beaten egg and toss in the cornstarch. Fry till golden brown. Keep aside.
- Heat a wok. Add in the butter once it is hot. Add to this the garlic and the ginger. Fry till light brown.
- Add the onions. Fry till golden.
- Add in the fried cuttlefish. Add the chili paste, salt & pepper to taste. Toss well until combined.
- Turn off heat. Add the scallions.
- Serve hot!
And voila, your hot butter cuttlefish is served!
It’s oily, it’s spicy, it is slightly sweet – all in all, a perfectly balanced dish. It’s great with fried rice or a fragrant steamed rice. It’s great as a snack in itself and is a popular accompaniment or a ‘bite’ with a nice chilled glass of beer or etc. The popularity of this dish is just off the charts!
It is a load of work, but it is fun nevertheless. Besides, you know that the end result will be more than rewarding. And we all know how much just a small portion of hot butter cuttlefish costs at restaurants, so why don’t we make it at home? Trust me, this comes out tasting much, much better than that. And without the added MSG as well!
I am sorry the pictures do not do justice to the dish – nether its taste nor its actual appearance. I shall make it a point to prepare this for lunch one day and take copious photos!
- Serve the dish hot. Once it cools, the crispiness of the calamari tends to fade.
- Use homemade chili paste if you can. I shall post the recipe for that one of these days.
- No chili paste? No problem. A dollop of sweet chili sauce and a generous scattering of chili flakes should do the trick.
- Some people add a dash of Ajino Moto to the dish. Since we do not use Ajino Moto as a principle (MSG is banned from our household due to health reasons), I did not use it. However, if you prefer that extra salty, umami of the typical Sri Lankanized Chinese food, you can add just a pinch to enhance the flavours. However, this is not advised as it contains MSG. Try to keep it healthy.
Preparing the calamari
- Don’t pay extra to your fish seller to clean your cuttlefish for you. It is an easy and simple process. Here’s how you do it.
- Remove the blackish skin outside of the cuttlefish by gently pinching/scratching its skin. The black/blue layer should come off easily. Make sure it is all out and the flesh is completely white.
- Pull out the head. You would see a black/silverish thin pouch hanging off its head. This is the ink pouch. snip this off carefully so as not to squish it. Otherwise you will end up with inky black hands and it would take a while to wash the ink off.
- If you wish, you can preserve this ink for a pasta/risotto dish afterwards. We all know how delicious a seafood squid ink risotto is. No need to buy squid ink by jars when you have the real deal right here.