Squid Ink: must-try fine dining delicacy
To make squid ink, Sarova Stanley’s executive chef Godfrey Ouda mixes it with baking flour and olive oil in equal 50-gramme portions. If he wants to make a foam, he whips it. He thinks that most miseducation about squid ink is related to its exclusive status as a fine dining classic.
Squid ink is said to be the new superfood with a number of health benefits. photo | file
Squid ink tastes like soft crisps and smells like roasted locust. And its the latest fine dining delicacy. To make squid ink, Sarova Stanley’s executive chef Godfrey Ouda mixes it with baking flour and olive oil in equal 50-gramme portions. If he wants to make a foam, he whips it. If he wants a tuile, a net-like crispy cookie garnish, then he pan-fries it. Although the tuile is stiff, it is very light and delicate.“If you hold it hard, it breaks,” says Ouda who loves experimenting with different flavours and textures.“The recipe is very simple. But how you do it is what will make it amazing,” says the executive chef, smacking his lips together in pleasure and inhaling. Squid ink is for fine dining. You can’t just find it anywhere but you can request for it specially so that a chef can get the ingredients.
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A shelf in a room at the Chef’s Table where Oudo serves special delicacies such as squid ink is adorned with different awards and punctuated by a picture of him with former President Mwai Kibaki. “This is where we entertain our guests with specific meals,” says Ouda in the room which provides a bird’s eye view of the busy kitchen. One such special meal is scallops and octopus medley, number two on his special blackboard menu, for the most recent Chef’s Table guests. Squid ink is a dark pigment released into water by sea fish, but nowadays it is harvested in fine dining kitchens. Confusion surrounds squid ink as some people think it is toxic to humans. Although all squids have venom, that venom is different from the ink. “It is a seafood so the benefits that you get from squid ink are similar to seafood,” he says. In fact, squid ink is highly nutritious as it contains proteins, minerals, amino acids, melanin, lipids, and dopamine, the latter of which is a calming neurotransmitter.The man who started out as a casual labourer in a hotel with no intentions of being a chef believes a taste of his squid ink will stun naysayers to silence. “Chef Godfrey Ouda has worked in this industry for almost 30 years,” he says, a feat that has definitely earned him the right to refer to himself in third person.He thinks that most miseducation about squid ink is related to its exclusive status as a fine dining classic.“Not many people can try it and few understand that it is healthy,” he says.
His is not a secret recipe but there are some things that you can’t cook until you are shown physically how to do it.The chef’s confidence comes from years of learning and teaching people how to make squid ink.“You can’t make squid ink the first time you try. Somebody has to keep showing you and the more you do it, the more you become specialised,” he says.
He also takes time to interact with his guests as they enjoy the delicacy.“You have to develop some confidence with the people that you are cooking for. The delicacy is made specifically to give you a different flavour while you are eating seafood such as prawns and even freshwater fish. Those who like seafood will definitely like it,” he says.