Vietnamese Salt & Pepper Squid

That dipping sauce might look a little muddy, but trust me, it was delicious!

One of the dishes (among many) that we loved on our travels through Vietnam and Cambodia was Salt & Pepper squid.  Naturally, that squid was ultra fresh, and so very tender it literally melted in your mouth.  Typically served with a bowl of rice, and a pile of greens it is the perfect light dinner.  I love the combination of flavours found in most Vietnamese dishes – fish sauce, lime juice and pepper.  Those show up in so many tasty dishes – makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

SALT & PEPPER SQUID

  • 400 gr squid **
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour (you can substitute corn starch)

OIL – to use for frying – make sure you use a high smoke point oil such as peanut, canola or vegetable. – heat to 350 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick in there …. once it bubbles all around the chopstick it is ready.

SALAD OR GREENS TO SERVE

Prep whatever fresh vegetables or salad you want to serve.

DRESSING

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped (or chili flakes to taste)
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (I usually stick with 1)
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp water

If you try anything – make it this dressing! I use it for salads all the time and it is so light and refreshing while adding so much flavour to a simple salad.

** Squid – if you can get it fresh then clean it and slice into rings – leaving tentacles whole.  I’ve only used frozen at this point but you know I will be sourcing some fresh squid!!

Once your squid is prepped, bash up the salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle – bash until cracked and broken but don’t turn it in to a fine grind.  Sprinkle a little directly onto the prepared squid.  Pour the rest into a bowl with the flours and stir until combined.

When oil is hot enough,  put a handful of the squid into the salt/pepper/flour mix and toss to coat lightly and cook in batches in the hot oil.  Do not overcrowd your oil or it will cool down and your squid will absorb more of the oil. 

Remove from oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  

If you like a dipping sauce – just bash up a bit more salt and pepper, mixing it with fresh lime juice.

The dressing couldn’t be easier!  Again, the mortar and pestle comes into action so I hope you didn’t clean it after bashing salt and pepper …… Drop in garlic, ginger, spring onion and chili …give it a good bit of action until you have created a paste.  Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and water.  TASTE.  TASTE IT AGAIN.  Every single item can be a slightly different taste profile from what I am using and for your individual tastes.  Adjust if necessary.  It should be slightly sweet, slightly salty, slightly hot and slightly tangy.  

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle then just chop everything quite fine and add in the other ingredients … I have about 3 of them so I love using them but don’t run out and buy one if you don’t love the process!

To serve lightly dress your salad with the dressing, pile the squid on and serve with a side of rice if you like, just the way it is served in Cambodia & Vietnam ….. oh take me back! We bought our pepper from the Kampot Pepper Plantation in Cambodia. Touted as the best pepper in the world we had no choice. It really does make a difference when the pepper is that fresh.

Give that salt and pepper a good bash up, but stop before it is all pulverized, a little texture is perfect.
I wish you could smell this! (even though fish sauce tastes a lot better than it smells)
Ready to be dressed at the last moment – this is so light, partially due to the lack of oil.
At the Kampot Pepper Plantation …. yes, those ladies are hand selecting black peppercorns with tweezers!

Vietnamese Pepper Chicken Rice Bowl

I love THE FRESH BRIGHT FLAVOUR OF A RICE BOWL LIKE THIS! THE ADDED BONUS IS THAT IT ALL COMES TOGETHER VERY QUICKLY AND IS AS VERSATILE AS WHATEVER YOU HAVE ON HAND.

Today’s version included some stir fried vegetables to make it a one bowl dinner, and some quick pickled peppers.
  • 4 chicken thigh fillets
  • 180g (6.3 oz) dried rice vermicelli noodles 
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 100g (3.5 oz) baby spinach leaves 
  • sliced cucumber, to serve 
  • finely julienned carrot, to serve 
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, crushed or finely chopped 
  • roughly torn mint leaves, to serve 
  • Marinade: 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce 
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated 
  • 1 tsp sugar 
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper 
  • Nuoc cham dressing: 
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce 
  • 3 tbsp sugar 
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp lime juice 
  • 1 long red chilli, finely chopped (or a pinch of chili flakes to taste)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, toasted peanuts, slivered green onions, and if you have them cilantro & herbs.

STEP 1
In a large bowl, combine the chicken fillets with the marinade ingredients. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the remaining ingredients. 

STEP 2
For the nuoc cham dressing, place the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Set aside for later. 

STEP 3
Cook the noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked. Drain and rinse until cool. Divide among serving bowls. 

STEP 4
Heat the oil on a large grill plate or in a frying pan over high heat. Add the chicken fillets and cook 3-4 minutes on the first side or until lovely and golden. Turn the fillets over and reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat and slice the chicken. 

STEP 5
To serve, arrange the baby spinach, cucumber and carrot on top of the noodles. Top with chicken slices. Spoon over a generous amount of the nuoc cham dressing. Top with the crushed peanuts and mint leaves and serve. 

For such a simple marinade, this chicken was very tasty! Fish sauce is a real flavour booster.

I’ve adapted the recipe here according to what I had at home, and we felt more like rice than rice noodles tonight. Honestly, we struggle with rice noodles after our trip through Vietnam and Cambodia, the noodles here at home just never taste as fresh and tender. We were in Cambodia, at the Kampot Pepper plantation and I keep finding ways to use that fabulous pepper.

This recipe is exactly as written from Marion Grasby of Marion’s Kitchen. If you haven’t followed her yet on Instagram or Youtube, you are missing out. She is amazing to watch, and every recipe is on point! Thank you Marion!

Vietnamese Rice Bowl

Vietnamese Bowl

Lime juice is used in so many dishes in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we loved it.  Tonight I sautéed the green vegetables with garlic and ginger, once tender I just squeezed fresh lime over and used a generous sprinkle of fresh Kampot pepper – they were so good and fresh.

We’ve just returned from a month in Cambodia and Vietnam and can’t seem to leave those fresh bright flavours behind us.  This rice bowl (or use rice noodles if you like) is delicious – use a variety of different textures and flavours to get the right balance, but whatever you use – make it your own.  The only actual recipe portion of this is the Vietnamese sauce, Nuoc Cham, the rest of it is more of a guideline.

You will need:

  • cooked rice
  • grilled steak (or chicken/prawns/tofu)
  • pickled fresh vegetables
  • sauteed vegetables (tonight I used broccoli, baby bok chow & snap peas)

Garnish:

  • toasted peanuts
  • slivered spring onions
  • rough chopped cilantro/basil/mint
  • toasted sesame seeds

Nuoc Cham Sauce:

  • 2 – 2/12 tbsp sugar (I used palm sugar but you can use white, or maple syrup or honey)
  • 3-4 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup very warm water (warm helps the sugar to dissolve)
  • 2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp fish sauce

Stir sugar and lime juice together, then add warm water and stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add rice vinegar and fish sauce.  I always start with the lesser amount of sugar, lime juice and fish sauce … adjust as needed when you have it all together.

To assemble, place your rice or rice noodles in the bottom of a bowl, then layer on your other ingredients.  Drizzle Nuoc Cham over and sprinkle with garnishes.  This dish is just as versatile as you want it to be.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 1

This time the Vietnamese bowl featured rice noodles and chicken.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 2

Quick pickled vegetables and Nuoc Cham sauce ready to dress up your bowl.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 3

Put everything out on the table and let everyone create their own bowl.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 4

Good to the last drop!