Squid - Calamari - A Complete Guide

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A real favourite of mine, it is so versatile that I can never decide on how to cook it! Having eaten squid across the globe I am yet to be disappointed, fried in olive oil and garlic with some Spanish chorizo sausage, stir-fried with noodles and curry in Singapore or tossed through a chilli-lime salad in Thailand the squid’s texture and ability to withstand strong flavours and fierce heat make for memorable meals.

Baby Squid

The size of squid varies from the ‘baby’ arrow squid of 2-3 inches (5-7cm) up to 10 inches (25cm) long. The smaller squid tubes are ideal for stuffing and can be meltingly tender. Squid is generally available for most of the year though more likely to be frozen, do buy it fresh when you have the chance but it does freeze very well. Usually squid will be sold washed and prepared and in the case of the larger tubes the only preparation required will be to pull the ‘plastic’ backbone from the body pocket.

If you do happen upon some fresh squid then simply rinse under cold water then pull the head from the body, the innards will be released and still attached to the head. Cut the tentacles from the head and reserve, these are edible and quite delicious as well as making for a stunning garnish on the finished dish. Remove the backbone; I mentioned ‘plastic’ because it is very similar to the sight and touch. Wash the body pocket in cold water and peel away the skin. With larger squid tubes it is common practice to lightly score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern to both tenderise and enhance the appearance once cooked.

Squid ink is another valuable commodity from this cephalopod, it is stored within a slender sac attached to the innards, jet black in colour it is used to colour risotto, pasta and seafood sauces. A word of warning; a little goes a long way and will stain the fingers if not immediately washed after using.

Don’t over complicate cooking squid, some olive oil, fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon is quite enough or tossed through a mixture of plain flour, chilli powder and salt then deep fried and served with the classic Vietnamese dressing Nouc Cham is more than enough.

Stir-Fried Squid with Noodles and Malay Flavours

Content and picture © Miles Collins