Tuesday, 6 October 2009 | Tags: ,

Touted by many nutritionists as an under-appreciated source of protein in the ocean, squid is available fresh (best if you can catch it yourself!) and frozen. We find out more about squid for an episode of Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag...

The Basics

  • Squid has been consumed by humans for centuries, particularly in Asia and Mediterranean countries.

    • Japan is the biggest squid-fishing and squid-consuming nation in the whole world.

  • Fresh squid is most abundant during spring and summer.

  • For quick cooking, choose smaller squid with clear eyes and moist flesh. Smaller squid is more tender than larger ones.

  • Like most seafood, the aroma of squid should be clean like the ocean. If it has a strong, fishy smell, it’s not fresh.

  • You can fry, boil, bake, grill, skewer, and even BBQ squid, but be warned: squid must be cooked either for a very short time or a very long time. Anything in-between and it comes out tough and rubbery.

  • The body or mantle can be stuffed whole, cut into flat pieces or sliced into rings.

  • The arms, tentacles, and ink are edible – the only parts of the squid that are not eaten are its beak and gladius (pen).

  • Whole squid is becoming quite popular with home cooks because it contains a gourmet prize: squid ink.

    • Squid ink is a secret ingredient for famous chefs around the world to not only colour pastas and risottos, but also lend a touch of flavour.

    • Squid ink is available in some gourmet markets at a hefty price, but if you buy whole squid, you can harvest your own. All it takes is a bit of careful cleaning which will also save you money.

  • 12 ounces of whole squid or 6 ounces cleaned = 1 standard serving.
    • One 6-inch squid weighs about 4 ounces.

    • Choose squid 5 inches or less (excluding the tentacles) for quick-cooked recipes, and larger for long-cooked.

  • Squid weighing less than 10 ounces are the most desirable for tenderness. However, if you are looking to harvest the ink, you’ll want squid that’s longer than 5 inches.

Health Benefits

  • Many nutritionists say that squid is one of the greatest untapped sources of protein in the ocean.

  • Squid has a larger ratio of edible parts to the whole body than other sea creatures, and scientists say the proteins and nutritional value contained in squid meat are equal to that of fish meat.

  • Squid also contains all eight essential amino acids in nearly proportional quantities. It is also high in phosphorus and contains traces of calcium, thiamine, and riboflavin.

  • Interestingly, squid caught in summer contains more water and less protein than squid caught in the fall.

  • The distinctive, sweet taste of squid meat is due to the abundance of nitrogen in the protein.

  • The fat content of squid meat varies from 1-5%. Though high in cholesterol, the quantity of fat is so low that the amount of cholesterol doesn’t present a health hazard.

  • Squid meat provides about 85 calories of energy per 100 grams of raw meat.

Storing Squid

  • Cover fresh squid tightly and refrigerate in the coldest section of your fridge, or on a bed of ice.

    • Fresh squid should be used within two days or cleaned and frozen immediately for later use.

    • You can freeze squid whole, but if you bought (ie, not caught) the squid, make sure it is fresh before freezing.

    • To freeze, place cleaned squid in heavy duty plastic freezer bags, being sure to squeeze out all the air, and seal tightly. Use within two months.

  • If you don’t have access to fresh squid, check the freezer section of your market. Cleaned, frozen squid is usually available, but you’ll probably end up having to buy two to three pounds at a time.

  • Frozen calamari can easily be thawed under cold running water.

  • Cooked squid may be refrigerated in a tightly-sealed container for two to three days, or frozen for two months.

Recipe Ideas from Around the World

  • In the Mediterranean, squid or cuttlefish ink is eaten in dishes such as paella, risotto, soups, and pasta.

  • In Portugal, squid is eaten with prosciutto and salad.

  • In Sardinia, squid have a sauce made from lemon, garlic, parsley, and olive oil.

  • In Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey, squid rings and arms are coated in batter and fried in oil. Other recipes from these regions feature squid (or octopus) simmered slowly, with vegetables such as squash or tomato. When frying, the squid flesh is kept tender by short cooking time. When simmering, the flesh is most tender when cooking is prolonged with reduced temperature.

  • In Spain, battered calamari is covered in a thick batter, deep fried, and served with lemon juice and plain or garlic mayonnaise. Battered and fried baby squid is called puntillitas.

  • In northern Spain, squid is cooked in its own ink, resulting a black stew-like dish in which squid meat is very tender. It is accompanied by a thick black sauce usually made with onion, tomato, and squid ink, among other fresh ingredients.

  • In the Philippines, squid is prepared in adobo sauce along with the ink, imparting a tangy flavour, especially with fresh chillies. Battered squid is served with alioli, mayonnaise, or chili vinegar. Squid is grilled on coals, brushed with a soy sauce-based marinade, and stuffed with tomato and onions. More elaborate stuffed squid is “rellenong pusit” which is stuffed with finely chopped vegetables, squid fat, and ground pork.

  • In Korea, squid is killed and served quickly. Unlike octopus, squid tentacles do not usually continue to move when reaching the table. The squid is served with wasabi, soy sauce, chili sauce, or sesame sauce. It is salted and wrapped in lettuce or pillard leaves. Dried squid may also accompany alcoholic beverages and is served with peanuts. Squid is roasted with hot pepper paste or mayonnaise as a dip. Steamed squid and boiled squid are considered delicacies.

  • In Croatia, squid are eaten grilled and stuffed with pršut and cheese, with Swiss chard.

  • Seafood stews of many nationalities often contain squid.

  • In Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine, squid is used in stir-fries, rice, and noodle dishes. Because it is mild in flavour, it may be heavily spiced.

  • In Asia, squid is grilled whole and sold in food stalls in China, Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan.

  • Pre-packaged dried shredded squid or cuttlefish are snack items in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Russia, and is often shredded to reduce chewiness.

  • In Russia, a lightly boiled, julienned squid with onion rings, garnished with mayonnaise, makes a salad. Another dish is squid stuffed with rice and vegetables then roasted.

  • In Japanese cuisine, squid is a sushi and sashimi item.

  • In Japan and Korea, squid is heavily salted, sometimes with innards, fermented for as long as a month, and preserved in small jars. This salty, strong flavoured item is served in small quantities or as an accompaniment to white rice or alcoholic beverages.

  • In India and Sri Lanka, squid or cuttlefish is eaten in coastal areas. In Tamilnadu and Kerala, squid are eaten deep fried or prepared as squid gravy.


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