(Adapted from Mark Bittman's "Squid with Black Pepper, Vietnamese Style.") New to cephalopods? This is the place to start. There's no fussy prep work (looking at you, fried calamari) so you're able to keep your focus on keep the squid tender. It's subtle flavor is a great option for those looking to experiment with squid sans marinara. Ungarnished, this dish won't win any beauty awards though - serve with a colorful mix of stir-fried vegetables or one of the variations suggested at the end. This comes together in about five minutes so make sure the table is set and your sides are ready. If you want, scale up and cook in batches. —Meaghan F
Slice the squid into thick rings, approximately 3/4 inch wide.
Heat wok or heavy-bottomed pan pan over medium-high until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add oil to coat.
Add squid to pan and toss until the edges begin to curl.
Add garlic, pepper, and pepper flakes and continue tossing until the first few pieces turn opaque - this should only take a minute or two. Try not to let the squid stick to the bottom of the pan; you may see a brown residue forming though (the "fond") which is fine and a good sign.
Stir in fish sauce and (you guessed it) keep tossing until the rest of the squid is opaque. Serve as-is, or garnish with any of the following: a TINY sprinkle of five spice or curry powder (like, less than a dash), chopped cilantro, crispy shallots, lime zest or wedges, chopped pickled ginger.