Calamari is the culinary term used for squid that we eat as food and it is also the Italian word for “squid.” It is dished up in a variety of different dishes and in many cultures. Each place has their favorite way of serving it.
I will make a bold statement here and say that we probably all have a vision of what calamari looks like in our heads. But when it comes down to brass tax, do we all know exactly what it is? Probably not. Let’s clear all that up now.
A lot of us conjure up a vision of perfectly crispy, golden brown rings when we hear this word and that isn’t completely incorrect. The word calamari refers to the dish of fried squid, but it is also used to refer to the ingredient itself, squid. We will use it interchangeably here.
There are more than 300 types of squid swimming around out there, and they vary from 1-inch to 80-feet in length. There are about 12 kinds that end up on your plate and they average about one foot long from tip to tail.
Calamari is mild in flavor with subtle sweetness and nuttiness. The meat is firm, white, and a bit chewy. (It should never be rubbery or torturous to chew.) Squid can be eaten raw, grilling, fried, sautéed, boiled, stewed, and more
In case you missed it above, calamari is squid!
We eat most of it. The muscular body (the top end) is sliced and becomes the rings while the tentacles are separated and cooked as well. The beak of the animal along with its internal shell and innard bits are discarded before cooking.
Squid are not fish, they are Cephalopods. Fancy, right? That group refers to marine dwelling creatures that don’t have gills and are invertebrates which means they fall into the same category as octopi and cuttlefish.
It is kind of like BBQ. You either what to cook it hot and fast or low and slow. Anything in the middle will give you rubbery rings that will be impossibly chewy and unpleasant.
On its own (no breading or deep frying,) calamari is pretty healthy. It is high in things like protein and minerals and generally low in calories as well as saturated fats. It is also a great source of vitamins B12, B6, and E.
It is prepared in different ways and this depends a lot on where you live. It varies from place to place.
In Madrid, they love squid fried between bread as a sandwich or in a delicious rice dish called paella. Croatia likes it simply grilled over hot coals. In Japan, they serve calamari raw on top of rice as sushi and for the Italians, they like it in marinated salads, with their pasta, and fried to a golden crisp as calamari.