Calamari sounds like an Italian word, doesn’t it? Because it really is an Italian word! It comes from the word ‘squid’ in Italian. Why don’t we call it squid instead of calling it calamari? We don’t know. Maybe because calamari sounds fancier. Maybe because people feel squirmy about eating “squid” but are perfectly okay with eating “calamari”!
Anyhow, it became popular with this name and took its place at every table at every seafood restaurant. While around the world it is being prepared with different sauces in various ways, if you ask what is calamari made of, I have to say it is mainly made from squid. This very popular dish is served differently in almost every country. In Spain, it is prepared as deep-fried rings stuffed in fresh bread.
They call it bocadillo de calamares which means calamari sandwich. Portuguese people make grilled kebabs with calamari rings and call it lula frita (fried squid). Japanese cooks grill the squid and serve it drizzled with soy sauce. It is known as ikayaki. Everyone has a unique way to prepare calamari. But what is it exactly? Let’s get a closer look!
What Is Calamari
Calamari is a type of squid, classified as a cephalopod. As cephalopods, squids are like other mollusks. They have soft bodies, long arms, tentacles with internal flexible backbones. They are caught between an inch and a foot long but some of them can grow to 80 feet long. Also they can be found in any marine environment except for the Black Sea.
Being an easy-to-find sea creature has made it a popular food in so many countries. Calamari is not only a delicious meal but a healthy one as well! It contains many nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B12, selenium, iron, zinc, and of course, protein. Although it is rich in vitamins, you should not consume fried calamari often since it is high in saturated fat and can cause high cholesterol.
You can choose other dishes that include squid in that case. Calamari is related to octopus and often confused with it. However, they are different. Octopus doesn’t have a shell, but calamari has a small backbone as we mentioned earlier. While octopus has a light taste, calamari is a bit tougher and chewy.
A calamari’s meat is smooth and firm. Moreover, it tastes a bit sweet and nutty. You can understand the differences when you eat them raw. You can buy calamari fresh, frozen, canned, pickled, and dried. Additionally, you can find them as a whole or pre-sliced at grocery stores and fish markets.
How to Prepare Calamari
You must remove its cartilage and empty its internal organs. Some people also find that they prefer to eat calamari without the skin. If you ask what part of the squid is calamari made of, we can say it’s mainly the head. While we can eat tentacles, the body is the main ingredient since it is the prime section of the meat.
After cleaning the squid, cut your squid as you like. If you want fried calamari rings, slice it crosswise. If you don’t know what is calamari rings, you can look at the recipe we gave at the bottom section. We suggest you prepare some dipping sauce to serve with that to make it tastier.
If you want to make calamari steak, there are two paths you can take. You can either cut circular pieces, or you can remove the tentacles and make steak out of the whole body. You can also stuff your squid as a whole as Greek people do. We suggest you marinate your squid before cooking since it absorbs the spices and aromas you add into it.
Otherwise, it can be bland and chewy. If you are cooking it as a whole, make holes all over it so it can absorb the ingredients better. Trust me. You’ll be surprised when you take a bite of your calamari and taste the flavors exploding inside your mouth.
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How to Cook Calamari
It is always possible to find calamari in seafood restaurants. But people don’t usually attempt to cook calamari themselves, which I think is such a waste! It is actually very easy to cook this beautiful dish at home. There are various cooking methods for calamari. It can be grilled, broiled, or deep-fried.
In case you have a particular liking for sushi, you’re also going to love the taste of raw calamari. If you want to cook calamari right, you should cook it either for a short time over high heat or a long time over low heat. Otherwise, it becomes very rubbery. You can use different sauces to enrich the flavor while cooking.
Salt and Pepper Squid
Salt and pepper squid is a popular Cantonese dish. We are used to eating it at cantonese restaurants, but you will hardly go out once you learn how to make calamari at home just the way you like it! For this recipe, you’ll need:
- 1 1\2 pounds of squid
- 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine
- 1\2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 5 cups, plus 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1\2 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1\2 cup of semolina flour
- 1\ 3 cup of plain cornmeal
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 2 hot green peppers
- 5 cloves of garlic, diced
- 2 teaspoons of ginger, minced
How to Proceed
First, clean your squid and rinse it in cold water. Cut the tentacles off but keep them because we will cook them too. Cut your squid bite-size and make sure the pieces are roughly the same size. Use a colander to drain the squid and transfer it to a bowl. Marinate your squid with shaoxing wine and sesame oil to make it taste better. Put 4 inches of oil into a pot and heat it.
Mix all-purpose flour, cornmeal, semolina flour, white pepper, and salt in a bowl to make a dry mixture. When the oil is ready, dip your squid in the dry mixture and then fry it. It takes 1 to 2 minutes to fry. After they’re golden brown and crispy, scoop them out of the oil and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil clinging to the fried calamari. After that, place your wok over medium-high heat.
Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil and the ginger. After a few seconds of frying the ginger, add the garlic. Make sure you stir the garlic often to prevent it from burning. When the garlic becomes lightly golden, add the peppers. After that, you can add the squid to the wok. Stir fry it for a minute or more and now you are ready! You can serve it with white rice or dipping sauce if you want.
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Calamari paella is a version of a famous Spanish dish. It tastes like heaven. Once you make it on your own, you will realize it tastes even better than any other restaurant-made paella. You’ll need:
- 1\2 cup of olive oil
- 620g chicken thighs
- 1\2 cup of onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1\2 green capsicum, diced
- 1\2 red capsicum, diced
- 120g calamari rings
- 120g small prawns, cleaned
- Salt to taste
- A pinch of saffron
- 400g crushed tomatoes
- 1\2 cup of peas
- 1500ml water
- 6 clams in the shell, scrubbed
- 6 jumbo prawns in shells
- 3 cups of long-grain rice
- 6 wedges of lemon
- 6 large sea scallops
How to Proceed
You’ll also need a large frying pan for this recipe. Heat the oil in it over medium-high heat. Now, it is time to sear the chicken thighs in this oil on both sides, until they turn golden brown. Pick them up and set aside for later. Using the same oil, stir fry the onion and garlic for a minute. Then, add the capsicums, small prawns and calamari into this. Stir fry for another couple of minutes.
Add salt, tomatoes, peas, rice, saffron and water to the pan. Add back the chicken thighs. Let this simmer on the heat for 15 minutes. Place clams and jumbo prawns into the mixture. Lower the heat and wait for 10 minutes. Nestle the scallops into the paella and continue to simmer for 5 minutes more. Voilà! This amazingly flavorful dish is ready to serve with lemon wedges.
And here is my all-time favorite! No doubt that it is the most popular way to prepare calamari. Here is what you need for this recipe:
- 450 grams squid
- A neutral-flavored oil
- 4 eggs
- 2\3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons semolina flour
- 1 lemon and seasoning
How to Proceed
Clean and cut your squid crosswise to make calamari rings. Rinse them with water and dry them. Prepare your oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and place it over medium-high heat. Mix the eggs in a bowl. Prepare your all-purpose flour and semolina flour in different bowls. Dredge the squid rings in the flour.
Make sure you shake off the excess flour because any extra will burn the oil faster and you’ll end up with charred calamari. Dip them in the egg and the semolina afterwards. Fry your calamari rings for one or two minutes. Do not place too many in one take. Season them as you like and serve them with lemon wedges.
How to Store Calamari
Calamari has a long shelf life. It also freezes very well unlike other kinds of seafood. So, you can buy it fresh and freeze it in your freezer bag. It lasts for months if you freeze it right. But of course, cooked squid does not last that long. You can only store it in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
With many ways to prepare it, calamari is on the top of our list when it comes to seafood. Seafood enthusiasts really cannot get enough of calamari! If you are new to this area of culinary arts, we recommend you start with calamari. It is a good start that will always be one of your favorites. Have you tried calamari? Try one of our calamari recipes if you’re feeling brave and let me know how it goes in the comments!