A few years ago, my local favorite Thai take-out royally f’ed me. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Have you ever had a restaurant you used to love and then horrible customer service just made you reconsider your obsession with them? Did you feel personally offended because over the course of many, many years of patronage (meaning you felt like you single-handedly kept their sorry arses in business?), they ruin the love affair with a few bad decisions? Maybe you wouldn’t want me as your customer but I usually have a “three strikes you’re out” rule but that one bad day, the day I was a bit hungover and desperately needed the sweet and salty taste of some Thai food, my local joint let me down big time. I responded with a few mean reviews on our Brooklyn/NYC online restaurant review websites. Then I vowed I would never, ever return again… no matter how bad I wanted that delicious Penang Curry. And guess what, I did it. To this day I have never returned. When I want to stand my ground, I do. But I have finally realized that my business did not keep them open and they continue to thrive locally. Whatever…
During my hiatus from the local Thai restaurant, I did learn to make some Thai-inspired dishes at home. One is this fabulous calamari salad. What I love the most about this is that it is the perfect mix of healthy and unhealthy. Yes, you have to fry some calamari, but it’s laying on a bed of napa or savoy cabbage and some other veggies. I guess you could make this with some grilled calamari if you want to really go healthy (or if you just hate to fry). It’s super easy to make and actually makes a nice meal. I had a nice bottle of thai sweet chili sauce, but you can also make your own very easily.
- 1 pound calamari, with tentacles
- 1 1/2 cups flour mixed with pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper
- 3 cups of shredded napa or savoy cabbage
- a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/4 raw red onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup of pickled shredded carrot (8 oz carrots, grated + 1 cup water + 1 cup rice or white wine vinegar + 1/4 cup sugar)
- fresh cilantro
- sliced scallions
- oil for frying
- 1 cup of Thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (or less/more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
What to do:
- Make your pickled carrots by first gently heating the vinegar, water and sugar until sugar has completely dissolved into the water/vinegar mixture. In a bowl or mason jar, add shredded carrots and top with water/sugar/vinegar mixture. Toss or shake and set aside.
- Make salad “dressing” by mixing thai sweet chili sauce with fish sauce and lime juice. Set aside.
- Heat the oil until hot enough to fry.
- Slice calamari bodies into 1 inch rings. Dry these and the tentacles with a towel. Toss the calamari in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake excess flour off the calamari and fry in the oil until brown (about 1 minute). Remove with slotted spoon or spider and allow to drain on some paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.
- Arrange your salad: cabbage on the bottom tossed with a bit of lime juice and olive oil to moisten a bit (optional), then topped with tomatoes, onions, pickled carrots, scallions, cilantro and crunchy calamari. Drizzle with the thai chili “sauce” and serve with some lime wedges. Enjoy!