For deep-frying:vegetable oil2 tspfish sauce1 tbspcornflour, to bind500 gm(about 6) baby or bottle squid tubes, scored in a 5cm-crisscross patternTo serve:fried golden shallots and garlic (see note), and a lime cheekTomato nahm jim2cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped2coriander roots, washed and coarsely chopped1each of long red and green chillies, seeds removed, coarsely chopped6ripe cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped1-2small green chillies, thinly sliced 2small red shallots, thinly sliced2 tbsplight palm sugar, finely crushed2 tbspfish sauce60 ml (¼ cup) lime juice, or to tasteSichuan flour mix10 gm (1 tbsp)Sichuan peppercorns100 gm (2/3 cup)cornflour
For tomato nahm jim, combine garlic and coriander root in a mortar and, using a pestle, pound to a coarse paste. Add long chillies and pound to a fine paste. Add tomatoes and pound until just pulped, then add green chilli, shallot, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice and stir to dissolve. Check hot, salty, sour and sweet flavours are balanced, adjust as necessary. Makes about 1/3 cup.
For Sichuan flour mix, toast peppercorns in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes or until aromatic, then finely grind using a mortar and pestle. Sift through a fine sieve, discarding husks. Combine pepper, cornflour and 3 tsp fine sea salt in a bowl. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large wok to 180C. Whisk fish sauce, cornflour and 1/3 cup cold water in a bowl to combine, add squid and mix to coat thoroughly, then drain well. Set aside 2 tbsp flour mix and toss squid lightly in remaining flour, shaking off excess, then deep-fry, in batches, for 2 minutes or until golden.
To serve, dust squid with reserved flour mix and arrange on a plate. Serve, scattered with fried shallot and garlic with tomato nahm jim and lime cheeks to the side.
Note Fried golden shallots and garlic are available from Asian grocers.