Stuffed Calamari with Crispy Garlic (ปลาหมึกยัดไส้ทอดกระเทียม)

(Makes 4 servings)

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One pound prepared small calamari (The length of the body should not exceed 3-4 inches for the bigger the calamari, the more stuffing they require to fill the cavities and the longer it takes to get the stuffing to cook through. By the time, the stuffing is cooked through, the calamari becomes rubbery. Using small calamari (and ideally of the same size) ensures that the stuffing gets cooked as quickly

1/2 pound ground pork

1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro roots or stems

5 large cloves garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoon plain vegetable oil

Cilantro leaves for garnish

In a mortar, pound 2 cloves of garlic, peppercorns, and cilantro roots into a smooth paste.

Place the pork in a bowl and add to it the prepared paste along with oyster sauce, and fish sauce; mix well.

With your hands, stuff the bodies of the calamari with the pork mixture. The stuffing should come up to about 1/4 inch below the edges of the squid openings. (You may have some pork stuffing leftover; freeze it for later.) Note that when cooked, the pork stuffing will ooze out of the squid openings a little. That's fine. I like it that way. However, if you want the stuffing to stay in, secure the opening of each squid with a toothpick as shown in my post on Sriracha Stuffed Calamari).

Place the filled calamari in a heatproof plate and steam them just until the the stuffing is almost cooked through. Set aside.

In the meantime, crush the remaining cloves of garlic and chop them very finely.

Add the vegetable oil and the garlic into a 12-inch skillet and place the skillet on medium heat, stirring constantly. Make sure you start with a cold pan, room temperature oil, and room temperature garlic and heat them all up gently together. That's the only way you can get your garlic to caramelize slowly and become sweet and crispy at the end. Also, be sure to stir the garlic around constantly to avoid hot spots. Don't walk away from the pan. In less than 5-6 minutes, you'll see the garlic turn blond, then light brown, then light golden. When that happens, remove the skillet from the stove immediately and pour the content of the skillet into a heatproof bowl.

Place the oil-coated pan back on the stove and crank up the heat to medium high. Shake excess moisture off the steamed calamari and add them to the hot pan just to sear the outsides ever so slightly. If you have any squid tentacles, add them to the pan at this point.

Once you can see that the calamari exteriors are lightly seared and the stuffing is cooked all the way (this should take less than 2 minutes to prevent the calamari from turning rubbery), douse the calamari with the reserved garlic oil and the crispy garlic. Plate. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve.