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What Is Calamari? Is it really squid?

Whether you know what is calamari or not you’re most likely familiar with a common calamari dish, fried calamari. Probably ordered it because it sounded fancy at first, but once you know what is calamari it might become your go-to seafood appetizer.

After all, calamari is one of the most popular appetizers served in restaurants throughout the world, but what is calamari? Chinese and Italians usually go for fried calamari, calamari cuisines in Greece and Turkey are stuffed with cheese, veggies, or served with rice and herbs, while Japanese mostly go for raw calamari preparations like sushi. However, regardless of the cuisine and way of cooking calamari has been a loved appetizer and is in fact generously tossed with noodles and other dishes. While you’ve probably eaten this delicacy a number of times without realizing what it actually is, it’s important to be aware of what you are eating. Right from what is calamari, what is its nutritional value, to how is it stored, find out all about calamari?

Define Calamari: What is calamari?

Calamari is one of the most loved seafood appetizers which is often served deep-fried. It is a type of seafood that has a thin but tough flesh. When cooked well it transforms into the delectable tender meat. More precisely, calamari means squid in Italian. However, when used in English calamari is a common culinary term for squid meat. So, when you’re wondering what is calamari when they say, fried calamari appetizers at Italian-American restaurants, they basically mean fried squid meat.

Where does calamari come from?

raw_squid_on_barbecue_sticks.  - Where does calamari come from?

Since we have established the meaning of calamari. Yes, squid meat, it is clear it’s derived from squids. Squids are cephalopods that have elongated and soft bodies. They are characterized by their long arms and tentacles that are easy to butcher. Once butchered they leave behind a thin cylindrical mass of flesh which is easily cut into rings or stuffed. With a wide variety of squid species, they are commonly found in every sea and ocean. Fun fact: Half of the global consumption of squid/calamari happens in Japan where it is known as ika.

Squid vs. octopus

close_up_shot_of_squid_at_the_market - squid vs.  octopus

People usually get confused between squid and octopus when it comes to calamari’s origin. The confusion occurs because but are cephalopods, have tentacles, and mostly because they are both found in the ocean. However, they both are different and taste different when cooked. So, to clear the confusion right away, calamari is squid meat and not octopus meat. When compared to octopus meat, squid meat is tougher, smoother, and more absorbent. Octopus meat has a mild taste that’s somewhat similar to chicken or pork. Squid meat on the other hand is slightly chewy and slightly sweet.

What does calamari taste like?

squid_soup

Wondering what is calamari and how it tastes? When compared to octopus or cuttlefish which have thick and flavorful meat, squid has thinner, milder flesh. Raw squid meat usually tastes smooth but firm. However, when cooked calamari has the properties to turn tender and generously absorb the flavors. It usually tastes like the spices it’s cooked in as it’s super absorbent.

Calamari – Nutritional Information

grilled squid

Typically, calamari is considered a very healthy food. Mostly because it’s low in calories and it is free of any saturated fats. At the same time, calamari or squid meat contains all the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are known to significantly improve overall health while reducing any risk of heart diseases. Also, when it comes to tentacles of squids, they are comparatively less nutritious than the body. However, both are rich in protein and vitamin B12. It is wise to moderately consume squid meat as it is full of cholesterol, however, it can be controlled with the cooking method. To preserve its nutritional value and health benefits to the fullest extent, squid meat should be grilled or steamed. Frying will only add calories or may drain out most of the vitamins and minerals.

How to buy calamari?

You can easily find fresh calamari at any seafood market and a few selected extensive grocery stores. However, if you cannot find fresh calamari in your location, frozen calamari works just as well. Squid meat or calamari can be bought pre-cut, or whole as per your needs. Pro tip: When buying calamari try purchasing squid meat that’s pre-cleaned and prepped which makes the preparation significantly quicker and mess-free.

How is calamari made?

how is calamari made?

When it comes to seafood like calamari it can be cooked in a number of ways. People usually prefer their squid body sliced ‚Äč‚Äčinto thin bite-sized rings. How to cook it mostly depends on your preference and the type of calamari dish you are going for. Once it is cleaned and cut, it is pretty easy to prepare. It can be grilled, broiled, and deep fried as well.

If you are dealing with squid meat for the first time, it is important to understand for your calamari to taste best you must either cook it for a mere short time or cook it for a long time on significantly low heat. Anything in between might lead to an undesirably chewy texture. Here is a list of 9 popular calamari dishes you can order for yourself or cook at home.

5 Most-ordered calamari dishes

If you already love what is calamari and are excited to order it next time you go out for lunch with your girls, here is a list of 5 popular calamari dishes you can always count on.

1. Deep Fried Calamari: If you know what is calamari, it is one of the most common calamari preparations across the world. Usually served as rings, fried calamari is one of the most ordered dishes at Italian-American restaurants. It is pretty straightforward and easy to make. Go for pre-cut calamari rings if you want to make it in minutes. Bread the rings in flour, season them with salt and pepper and fry. It can be served with lemon wedges along with a dip of your choice, typically marinara.

deep fried calamari with lemon wedges and marinara dip

2. Salt & pepper squid: Another popular calamari dish is salt and pepper squid. Again a pretty straightforward and simple recipe. The meat is covered in cornstarch and deep fried until it is crispy. Add seasonings of your choice to enhance the taste along with salt and pepper. Typically, it includes green onions, garlic, and ginger. People also add wine to enrich the flavor.

3. Spaghetti with Squid Ink: If you like Italian cuisine, you can go for Spaghetti with Squid Ink also known as Spaghetti al nero di seppia. This dish is prepared by simply tossing squid ink in any traditional pasta dish typically made with garlic, and white wine and garnished with parsley.

squid spaghetti

4. Spanish paella: Another very common calamari preparation is Spanish paella. In this recipe, calamari is cooked and served on top of garlic and saffron-based rice. The dish also includes chicken and other seafood as per preference.

spanish_paella_with_squid

5. Ceviche: Another common seafood dish is ceviche. It’s usually cooked as per preference, regionality, and availability. Along with squid meat or calamari, people also add shrimp and other sea foods.

Other popular calamari dishes are:

thai_basil_squid
  • Calamari with Garlic-Lime Sauce
  • Thai Basil Squid
  • Grilled Stuffed Squid
  • Squid Ink Risotto
  • Squid Tacos

In this article, we understood what is calamari, its nutritional value, how it is different from octopus, how to buy calamari, how to cook it, and a few common calamari recipes. While calamari is a fairly healthy seafood appetizer it is high in cholesterol levels. You can definitely go for squid-based dishes unless you are allergic to shellfish allergies. If you have symptoms like skin rashes, nausea, or difficulty breathing after you’ve consumed calamari, you are probably allergic.

Also read: Easy recipe to make simple seafood stew with wholesome ingredients

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