Many years ago, we used to frequent a Chinese restaurant on Pembroke Road in Dublin. To my shame, often, we would hang in pretty late, having “just one more bottle of wine” before making any decisions about falling into a taxi. As night would inevitably turn into early morning, the staff would put us under pressure to finish up and leave. Repeated visits to the table to see if we wanted the bill would be met with orders for “definitely the last” bottle of house red.
At a certain point, the waiters would disappear and settling the bill would become a problem. This, because the waiters and chefs could be found, hiding in an alcove, deeply involved in a game of Mahjong. Our payment at this stage, well down their list of priorities. We would be completely ignored, left to stumble into the night and settle our account on the next visit.
The game of Mahjong has always fascinated me. A few years ago, I bought a set and resolved to learn the game. Sadly, to date it has been to be stored behind the door in the play room, only getting taken out to act as prop in this reminiscence.
Why Mahjong Squid? Well, I made it up myself and needed a title. I had the Mahjong set and the recipe is a “four player game”. After I cooked it, I realise that, just like the game, it is pretty addictive. So, why not?
- 3 medium-sized squid.
- 6 slices of ginger.
- 2 cloves of garlic.
- 6 spring onions.
- A tablespoon or so of fermented black beans.
- A tablespoon or so of chili oil.
- A tablespoon of peanut oil
- A tablespoon of Shaoxing rice wine (or sherry from the back of the drinks cabinet (right at the back, nobody drinks it anymore).
- A tablespoon and a half of soy sauce.
- A heaped teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in two tablespoons of water.
- A handful of mange tout.
First thing to do is add some water to the black beans. This reconstitutes them and also removes some of the salt. The black bean flavour is pretty punchy.
You got lucky when buying the squid in that they came pre-cleaned and I don’t have to subject you to squid cleaning shots. (I did it here if you are interested.)
Next to go under the knife is the spring onions.
The ginger is next in line.
The garlic gets kept until last. No reason. It just happened that way.
Last but not least, wash and cut the mange tout on the diagonal.
Once the chopping is done, there is very little to putting this together. It should take no more than six or seven minutes to cook. Have some rice ready.
Get the wok out and add about a tablespoon of peanut oil. Then add the chili oil. Add the garlic and ginger as soon as the oil gets medium hot. Don’t wait until it is smoking. You will burn the garlic and ruin the flavours.
When the aromas of ginger and garlic start to rise, add the squid, a few at a time. Stir constantly.
Side note on woking 1: The reason for the “few at a time” is to prevent the temperature in the wok dropping and the squid stewing rather than frying.
Give the squid a couple of minutes stirring. Next add the mange tout. Things happen pretty quickly from here.
Next add the spring onions.
Don’t procrastinate now. Drain and add the black beans.
Pour in the soy and rice wine. I combined them in one mug for convenience.
Add the cornstarch mixture a little at a time until you get a nice thick sauce consistency.
Side note on woking 2: If you overdo it, just add some more water until it thins to your desired thickness. I like a medium-thick sauce.
It should end up looking something like this deliciousness.
All that is left to do is to serve over some nice white rice in a bowl. That way, the sauce leaks down into the rice making for a delicious dish.
Follow my recipe and there will be no gambling with this dish (despite its name). It’s the real deal!