Caribbean Pepper Calamari

Pepper Calamari (or Squid, depending on where on the island you order from) is a MUST-HAVE dish whenever I visit my homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. I find that the more expensive the restaurant, it’s called Calamari and the cheaper the cost on a menu, they would call it Pepper Squid. So where’s my fave spot to order from.. read on!

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

You’ll Need…

1/3 lb calamari rings
1 teaspoon black pepper (divided)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 cup butter milk
3 scallions (chopped)
2 scotch bonnet peppers (sliced, include seeds)
6 cloves garlic (chopped fine)
2 cups veg oil (for frying)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 red bell pepper (diced fine)
1/4 orange bell pepper (diced fine)
1/4 lemon (juice)

Note! This is a SPICY dish, but if you wanted to cut back on the heat, use less of the Scotch Bonnet pepper and do not include the seeds or the white membrane surrounding the seeds.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

I got the calamari rings in the frozen section of my grocers. They were thawed and washed with lemon juice and cool water. Then drained and placed in a deep bowl. I then covered them with the butter milk. Watch the video below for my tip if you don’t have buttermilk. Let that sit in the fridge for 2 hours.

We’ll toss the calamari rings in a sort of dusting or dredge. For that, combine the flour, corn starch and 1/2 the black pepper.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Prep the other ingredients.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Couple hours later, take the rings and toss them in the dredge and set aside. I placed them (once I shook off the extra dredge) on a sheet pan. Now heat the oil on a med/high flame and get ready to quickly fry them.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Fry them in batches and try to NOT over-cook them or they will go chewy. Once you see golden edges, remove and continue frying the rest (3-4 minutes tops). I placed them on a wire rack over a sheet pan. I find that if you place them on paper towels, they can go soggy.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

While they’re still hot, sprinkle the salt over them.

Heat 2 tablespoon of the same oil we fried the Calamari with. When the wok (use a frying pan if you don’t have a wok) is still cool (with the oil), add the garlic, peppers and scotch bonnet pepper. This will gently flavor the oil. VENT your kitchen! Toss in the scallions and the remaining black pepper.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Three minutes (med/low heat), add the fried Calamari and toss to coat. Add a couple drops of sesame oil if you want a lovely additional flavor. I’m NOT a fan of sesame oil.

2 minutes later.. You’re DUN! Drizzle on the lemon juice as you serve and do include some lemon wedges on the side in the event your guests want a bit more of that citrus. Feel free to sprinkle on more salt if you wish.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Grab a cold beer and enjoy! Oh Yea.. my fave spot to have these pepper Calamari in Trinidad and Tobago is Town Restaurant in POS. However the last time I was there on the outdoor patio area, I kinda made my way onto the menu. Local mosquitoes were fascinated with my freshly shaved head. I fed a few!

Drop me your comments below, tag me on Instagram and don’t forget you can now get my cookbook – The Vibrant Caribbean Pot, 100 Traditional And Fusion Recipes @ CaribbeanPot.com/CookBook/

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