The first kitchen I ever worked in was the Chinese kitchen at the Taj Residency. It was my third day & Chef Thapa – the Chinese Chef de Partie was in a terrible mood. The CDP from the Cold kitchen had played an epic prank on him & hidden all the “Dhapoos” from the Chinese kitchen before Thapa came in. A Dhapoo is a round wok ladle. Had no idea why Thapa called them that & I sure as hell wasn’t about to ask. He was making do with a different kind of ladle but it was clear that his patience was wearing thin. I quietly peeled garlic while Chef Thapa angrily made order after order, slamming them down on the pass so hard that the garnishes were falling off. I don’t want to exaggerate, but it takes a certain kind of impact to make sesame seeds fly off a plate of Orange Chicken. After lunch service, Chef sent me to the walk-in to restock our fridge with prawns for dinner service. I was excited to set foot inside a walk-in for the first time & spent a little longer than I should have, sticking my nose into everything back there. Just as I was leaving with the prawns, I spotted lemon grass (a super exotic ingredient back then) on one of the top racks. I used a step stool to take a better look & along with the lemon grass, discovered six wok ladles neatly stacked & hidden at the back of the shelf. I triumphantly took them back to Chef Thapa & he taught me how to make Prawn Pepper Salt that day.
Over the weekend, I recreated the #recipe with squid & Sichuan peppercorns. Here goes:
1. Dry roast 1 tbsp each of Sichuan peppercorns & black peppercorns. Cool & grind with 2 tsp sea salt, using a mortar & pestle.
2. Wash & pat dry squid & prawns. Season liberally with salt & pepper mixture
3. In a bowl, assemble 1/4 cup each of All Purpose Flour & Rice flour
4. Dredge seasoned seafood in the flour mixure till fully coated
5. Shake off excess flour & deep fry till golden brown
6. In a wok, heat 1 tbsp oil & throw in 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 2 green chillies & 1/2 chopped onion. Cook for 1 min.
7. Throw in seafood, add a pinch of sugar & some more of the salt & pepper mixture
8. Toss well & serve hot