Pan-Asian Fusion Cooking: Lemongrass-Infused Calamari Fritters with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

The after-taste lingered on, the aroma befriended my thoughts and the experience remained etched in my memory long after we left the Satay restaurant. The unique flavors prompted me to go on yet another culinary journey; this time it became a journey of discovering my surroundings. Initially, I started out trying to figure out how to emulate the Satay at home, but soon enough realized I would not be able to do justice to it. The reason being the absence of a charcoal grill. I could have marinated it and cooked it on a grill pan, however the fragrance generated by the fire and charcoal would have been missing, hence leaving the satay to be fairly one-dimensional. I did not want to lose out on the memory of the delicious satay that I had eaten off the charcoal grill, hence I decided to abort the mission. The flavors of the marinade, however, still haunted my palate and I had to use them in some other way to satiate my desire. Hence, I began to encompass the idea of using the satay marinade as a base and adding flavors from other Asian nations to make fusion style calamari fritters with a spicy peanut sauce.

Pan-Asian Fusion Cooking: Lemongrass-Infused Calamari Fritters with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Instead of using meat or poultry, I opted for calamari to add texture to the dish. The crispy skin would be loaded with flavors from all over Asia to create dimensions of flavors on your palate. Hence the term Pan-Asian fusion cooking. It incorporates the turmeric and lemongrass flavors associated with Malaysian Satay, brown sugar that adds sweetness to Indonesian Satay, coconut milk in the peanut sauce normally associated with Thai cuisine, coriander and red chili powder used in the Subcontinent and ginger an essential component of Japanese cooking. All the bold flavors compacted into one dish could have gone seriously wrong, but luckily they came together surprisingly well. To get the best flavor, it is always better to keep the meat or seafood marinated for as long as possible, at least 10 hours.

Pan-Asian Fusion Cooking: Lemongrass-Infused Calamari Fritters with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Calamari

  • 3 squid tubes (skinned and cleaned)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp water

For the Peanut Sauce

  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 2 tbsp red chili paste
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup tamarind juice

Preparation:

For the Calamari

  • Add all the ingredients, except the squid and breadcrumbs, into a food processor. Blitz till a smooth paste forms
  • If the marinade is still lumpy add a bit more water and mix again
  • Meanwhile, slice the squid tubes into 1/2 inch thick rings
  • Place them into a bowl and pour the marinade over them. Mix well so that all the rings are coated evenly
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 hours for the marinade to infuse with the calamari
  • When they are ready to be cooked, sprinkle the breadcrumbs generously over the calamari and coat well
  • Heat oil in a pan and when it starts to bubble then add the calamari, one at a time otherwise the marinade will make them stick to each other
  • Cook till they are crisp and golden brown
  • Place on a kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil
  • Serve while hot

For the Peanut Sauce

  • Add all the ingredients into a blender and pulse
  • Do not blitz the mixture too much as the peanuts need to be slightly chunky. Taste for spiciness to adjust the flavors to your palate
  • Pour into dishes and serve

Pan-Asian Fusion Cooking: Lemongrass-Infused Calamari Fritters with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Influenced by the various cuisines of Asia, these calamari fritters create a balance of flavors that are sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Aside from the flavors it’s textures, soft from the inside and crisp from the outside, help it attain multi-dimensions. It helped me to achieve the flavors of the satay that I was craving, yet was able to give it my own touch. An easy yet delightful appetizer, serve it for dinner or at a cocktail party or simply to satisfy your own cravings just like I did.

Pan-Asian Fusion Cooking: Lemongrass-Infused Calamari Fritters with a Spicy Peanut Sauce