First to try it all, wins!
I don’t know about you, but whenever salt and pepper squid is on the menu, it has to be ordered. I don’t make the rules! Salt and pepper squid, typically known in the west as fried calamari, is always an easy treat, whether it be in a subconscious snack in company of ice-cold beers or as a considered main at big banquet dinners. They’re versatile, so easy to love and so very tasty.
Actually, that boozy slushie you currently have in hand is the perfect partner for fried squid, so as a bid to farewell the last days of summer, sample only the best in Hong Kong. Take it to go and enjoy it by the pier if you can –– it’ll be like an almost-holiday in the Mediterranean.
The dish: Calamari Fritti
Red chilli, green chilli. Fortunately, Wan Chai’s Osteria Marzia serves up a consummate version of fried calamari; so no twists, no turns, no ominous surprises. Nothing of the sort. Expect a mild kick of heat from the aromatic blend of chillis as you bite into the crispy exterior, but it’s nothing that can’t be easily be quelled by the accompanying ramekin of zesty tartar sauce. Get a big glass of Aperol Spritz while you’re here –– it’ll be exactly like a seaside trip down the Spanish coast.
Osteria Marzia, G/F, The Fleming, 41 Fleming Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 3607 2253
The dish: Deep Fried Prawns and Calamari (HK$148)
DiVino is the place for authentic Italian serves in grand ol’ portions on pristine while tablecloths. It’s always reliable; you know that red sauce pasta is always going to be deliciously al dente and the pizzas, leopard-spotted and perfectly seared. The deep-fried calamari is, too, another true-to-form creation. Thinly battered rings brightened up with the zest of lemon, served with a slathering of tartar sauce. What’s not to love? The dish also comes with a heaping of deep-fried prawns. Perfect beer bites, if you ask me.
DiVino Patio, Shop 11, 1/F, Causeway Centre, No. 28 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2877 3552
The dish: Squid Croquette (HK$17/piece)
So, this might not be your archetypal calamari dish of golden-fried batter with unformed hula-hoop rings. But this delicious take, a croquette from Spanish tapas bar Pica Pica, promises to be just as delicious. It’s been moulded into an easy ovular one-biter which already makes things so much easier, while the beautifully fried exterior is indicative of a satisfying first ‘crunch’. Try it. Tucked within this hunk of gold, a creamy fluffy centre with chewy chunks of squid. A dollop of tart “All-i-Oil” balances this unctuous bite.
Pica Pica, G/F, Shop G & H, Kai Tak Commercial Building, 317 -321 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2811 9880
208 Duecento Otto
The Squid: Atlantic Scottish Squid 250g (HK$298)
Alright, technically this is not a fried calamari dish either, but hear me out. 208 Duecento Otto’s version is an apt alternative for those skipping out on the heavily battered, heavily fried coat. Omitting the crispy batter, the squid –– all 250g of it –– is expertly scored, pan-fried and tossed in a mixed herb sauce blitzed with coriander, tarragon and basil. The golden gridded tubes are served upon a bed of creamy oven-roasted potatoes and made to be enjoyed all together in one single bite. Don’t forget the lemon.
208 Duecento Otto, 208 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2549 0208
The dish: Fried Calamari (HK$175)
Now this is an iconic way to enjoy a piping hot plate of fried calamari: Outdoors in the salty sea breeze, a stone’s throw from the beach, underneath the beaming sun. It’s the exact scene at Limewood, the casual pan-Asian eatery at The Pulse. Go early for a front row seat with a perfectly framed view of the palm trees and the beach and order yourself a serving of the restaurant’s fried calamari. Deliciously tempting with a danger-red dusting of chilli that’s enough to make mouths water, the battered-fried tubes are served with a squeeze of lime and a following dip of the accompanying mango curry mayo.
Limewood, G/F, Shop 103 – 104, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2866 8668
The dish: Salt & Pepper Squid (HK$138)
There’s a lot to love about Chôm Chôm’s salt and pepper squid. Its deep golden brown coat, for one, which means extra crunch that crackles with every bite. Its thoughtful blend of seasoning, which told by its namesake, a generous dash of salt and pepper but also surprises with added garlic and black beans for an extra aromatic touch. And most importantly, its presentation of short, easy-to-eat strings so that every time you go in for a scoop of the sriracha mayo dip, it fits perfectly into one clean mouthful. Easy, peasy and don’t forget to ask for a squirt of the lemon squeezy.
Chôm Chôm, 58 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2810 0850
Lamma Rainbow Seafood (or any local dai pai dong)
And for the last, possibly the best (in my opinion), entry upon this list: salt and pepper squid (椒鹽鮮魷) from local dai pai dongs. Particularly those from the seafood-centric restaurants that line the edge of the outlying islands; like Lamma Rainbow Seafood, where travel time is cut short via a junk shuttle between Central or Tsim Sha Tsui pier and the restaurant. Serving the Cantonese take on the salt and pepper squid, these hawker-style eateries are home to a lightly fried, still sizzling bite of chunky squid that’s chewy but never rubbery. It’s garnished with a myriad of condiments: Deep-fried garlic. Slices of hot, peppery chilli. A bed of prawn crackers. But the squid always manages to remain the star of the show. Dip it ever so slightly in vinegar for added zing –– it’ll be a scrumptious surprise.
Lamma Rainbow Seafood, G/F, 23-27 Sok Kwu Wan First Street, Lamma Island, Hong Kong, +852 2982 8100
Tung Po, 2/F, Java Road Municipal Services Building, 99 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong, +852 2880 5224
Header image courtesy of Limewood; Featured of Pica Pica