Easy oriental part 6 – Mahjong Squid

Ma Jong SquidMany 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?

There is not a lot to this delicious dish.

There is not a lot to this delicious dish.

The ingredients

  • 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.

Water pouring shots are not too interesting. Such is life.

Water pouring shots are not too interesting. Such is life.

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.)

The first of a few chopping shots. Doing oriental, I get to use the big knife!

The first of a few chopping shots. Doing oriental, I get to use the big knife!

Next to go under the knife is the spring onions.

The biggest difficulty with chopping these is that some of them always end up on the floor.

The biggest difficulty with chopping these is that some of them always end up on the floor.

The ginger is next in line.

Thankfully, ginger does not tend to roll off the board. Chop it nice and fine.

Thankfully, ginger does not tend to roll off the board. Chop it nice and fine.

The garlic gets kept until last. No reason. It just happened that way.

At this time of year, garlic is at the end of it's useful life and one needs to use a bit more than when it's fresher.

At this time of year, garlic is at the end of its useful life and one needs to use a bit more than when it’s fresher.

Last but not least, wash and cut the mange tout on the diagonal.

Don't cut the mange tout too fine. It needs to be the right size to accompany the chopped squid.

Don’t cut the mange tout too fine. It needs to be the right size to accompany the chopped squid.

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.

Don't burn the garlic and ginger. It will leave a bitter taste.

Don’t burn the garlic and ginger. It will leave a bitter taste.

When the aromas of ginger and garlic start to rise, add the squid, a few at a time. Stir constantly.

The floppy squid rings go all circular when they start to cook.

The floppy squid rings go all circular when they start to cook.

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.

The mange tout add a nice crunch. We don't want to overcook it.

The mange tout adds a nice crunch. We don’t want to over-cook it.

Next add the spring onions.

A flinging, rather than a pouring, shot. Hurry now.

A flinging, rather than a pouring, shot. Hurry now.

Don’t procrastinate now. Drain and add the black beans.

Once they are in, stir like a demon. We don't want any burning.

Once they are in, stir like a demon. We don’t want any burning.

Pour in the soy and rice wine. I combined them in one mug for convenience.

Don't stop stirring. Even though your forearms will be sore.

Don’t stop stirring. Even though your forearms will be sore.

Add the cornstarch mixture a little at a time until you get a nice thick sauce consistency.

Stir it in until it gets medium-thick, if you know what I mean.

Stir it in until it gets medium-thick, if you know what I mean.

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.

Totally gratuitous squid shot. I know you love them!

Totally gratuitous squid shot. I know you love them!

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.

One of the nicest things one can do with squid.

One of the nicest things one can do with squid.

Follow my recipe and there will be no gambling with this dish (despite its name). It’s the real deal!

 

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Latest comments
  • Very tasty. Wasn’t it called the Orchid? Is it still there?

    • It certainly is still there. I didn’t name it because it was so long ago and no doubt, the gambling habits have changed.

  • Sounds delicious, but I will have to defer trying it until the fridge is no longer bursting with cold roast meats and huge quantities of sherry trifle and chocolate mousse…. But I will try it.

    • I know the feeling. We had smoked salmon carbonara last night. I think the salmon grows overnight in the fridge.

  • It had never crossed my mind to stir fry squid, but I like it! Kees will like your suggestion of serving this on top of the rice. I feel an urge to sprinkle this with sesame seeds. Looks great, Conor!

    • I think it’s an age thing. The sesame seeds tend to occupy the spaces between my teeth. So, I prefer to forego them.

  • Looks fabulous – though I have to take issue with your contention that nobody drinks sherry any more! (You can tell I haven’t been at the bottle yet today though because I could spell the previous sentence ok.) Hiccy New Year.

    • I watched a Hammer production of The Hound of the Baskervilles last evening. The bishop arrived at the manor house. The houseman appeared, unasked, carrying a tray with a decanter and two pre poured glasses of sherry. That’s how they rolled in 1959.

      • That’s about my vintage 🙂 but I prefer it chilled.

        • I suspect it’s cold enough up at Baskerville Hall!

  • There is no gamble in thinking this has to be a delicious dish.

  • Looks outstanding! Hope your Christmas was a good one and that 2014 brings us many more pour shots.

    • We will do our best to pour into 2014.

  • I stir fry squid regularly… haven’t ever paired it with black beans yet tho!

    • Do try the combination. It’s well worth the gamble.

  • That sounds delicious!
    I did play Mahjong a couple of times in the very distant past. It’s like a complicated version of dominoes. I also caught a glimpse of a huge game being played for big money under one of the restaurants in Chinatown, before being curtly pushed away.

    • I had a read of the rules. Totally confusing on the first pass.

  • I always so impressed with your adventurous kitchen spirit. And your knife skills are quite impressive too! Lovely dish! Where have I been? I had to look up mange tout!

    • You are too kind. The mange tout add a lovely crunch to the dish.

  • This looks delicious and easy. I like that strong flavor of fermented black beans. I know way too many people who play Mahjong like their lives depend on it! Impressive cutting of the squid. That’s not easy business.

    • Cleaning the squid is the difficult bit. Particularly if you are trying to keep the ink sack intact to colour the pasta!

  • Wonderful recipe! Love it! Do it the same but have not used black beans ~ must!! I think cleaning squid and cuttlefish very ‘therapeutic’ and hate to have to buy the cleaned tubes 🙂 ! Having put Foxtel Lifestyle and Food channels on as a Yule present to me, have been gorging on some wonderful demos – dear JO does not peel either ginger nor garlic: it actually does work his way 🙂 ! Faster!! Oh Mahjong – having been in the Far East as many times as I have, oh boy have I lost many a night’s sleep to the clack-clack-clack all around the places I have stayed, lasting all nigh!!!!

    • They do seem to enjoy the game. I must learn it. Now, who will play with me?

      • An air ticket to Hong Kong will do it to start with 😉 !

  • Great dish and post, Conor. I definitely need to give this a try. 🙂

  • If you keep this up, you’re going to be encouraged to open your own Chinese restaurant. Now with a mahjong parlor.

    • That might take some of the gamble out if it!

  • What a nice phillosophi my friend……
    acttually, mahjong is my dad’s favourite too,
    it’s kinds upsets my mom when my dad coming back late from the church, not because of the choir lesson, but absolutely because of mahjong game there, LoL

    • Manjong in the church. I think I approve.

  • Looks lovely and I could just dive right into this dish! ^..^

    • Thanks Barb. That’s just what we did.

      • Now if I could only get my husband to eat calamari….OH, but I try! I did get him to eat wontons that were a combo of shrimp and pork…Making headway!

  • I love squid but I have never been brave enough to prepare it myself, I will admire your knife skills from afar and order this from the menu 🙂 Hope you and your family have a great New Year!

    • Thanks for the kind words. Ditto to you and yours on the New Year.
      Conor

  • Zia plays mahjong nightly on her PC. I haven’t the faintest idea how it’s played. We may cook squid a number of ways but certainly nothing like this. I’m impressed that you created this dish, Conor. It looks fantastic! Well done, Sir.

    • Thanks John, I have a version on the iPad too. It’s a type of solitaire. The multi-player, big money changing hands, version is a lot more complex. Thankfully, the squid is not.

  • The sea food looks amazing…..guess it would be good with rice noodles stir fried too! will try out for sure…

    • Thank you. Do give it a go. It is easy and delicious.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Fabulous Conor. Love the black beans – tricky to come by without a special trip but very much worth it.

    • Well worth the trip to the Oriental market. They keep forever too.

  • Oh Conor! I love squid and this dish is calling out my name!! Lovely!

    • Thanks Lidia,
      It is easy and really very tasty. A Chinese friend of mine was chiding me for doing it. He said it reminded him too much of home. Though, I think he was referring to the Mahjong…

  • Well that looks delectable. I wish I had that instead of the instant ramen I will be having for lunch today. Happy New Year!

    • The thought of instant ramen makes me ill. That is no way to start the new year Girl! You have to raise your standards and have a great 2014.
      Conor

  • Conor, that looks great. I lived a mere 10 houses up from said restaurant for over 3 years many many moons ago. Despite this I only made it inside once as it was beyond my budget! I will def be giving this a try for old times sake!

    • Excellent reason indeed. I haven’t been through the door there in years either. I believe it still does pretty well.

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