What are squid? Is it really squid?

Whether you know what calamari is or not, chances are you’re familiar with a common calamari dish, fried calamari. You probably ordered it because it sounded fancy at first, but once you know what calamari is, it could become your favorite seafood appetizer.

After all, calamari is one of the most popular appetizers served in restaurants around the world, but what is calamari? The Chinese and Italians often opt for fried squid, squid cuisines in Greece and Turkey are stuffed with cheese, vegetables or served with rice and herbs, while the Japanese prefer raw squid preparations like sushi. Regardless of the cuisine and way of cooking, however, squid has been a much-loved appetizer and is, in fact, mixed generously with noodles and other dishes. While you’ve probably eaten this delicacy several times without realizing what it really is, it’s important to be aware of what you’re eating. From what squid is, what its nutritional value is, to how it is stored, find out everything about squid.

Define Calamari: What is Calamari?

What is squid?  - Define squid

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

Where does the squid come from?

raw_squid_on_barbecue_sticks.  - Where do squid come from?

We have already established the meaning of squid. Yes, squid meat, it is clearly derived from squid. Squids are cephalopods that have elongated, soft bodies. They are characterized by their long arms and tentacles that are easy to dismember. Once slaughtered, they leave behind a thin cylindrical mass of meat that is easily cut into rings or stuffed. With a wide variety of squid species, they are commonly found in all seas and oceans. Fun fact: half of the world’s consumption of squid occurs in Japan, where it is known as ika.

squid vs octopus

close_up_shot_of_squid_at_the_market - squid vs. octopus

People often get confused between squid and octopus when it comes to the origin of squid. The confusion occurs because they are cephalopods, they have tentacles and, above all, because both are found in the ocean. However, both are different and taste different when cooked. So, to immediately clear up the confusion, calamari is squid meat and not octopus meat. Compared to octopus meat, squid meat is tougher, softer and more absorbent. Octopus meat has a mild flavor that is somewhat similar to chicken or pork. Squid meat, on the other hand, is slightly chewy and slightly sweet.

What do squid taste like?


Are you wondering what squids are and how they taste? Compared to octopus or cuttlefish, which have thick and flavorful meat, squid has a thinner and softer meat. Raw squid meat usually has a mild but firm flavor. However, when the squids are cooked they have the property of becoming tender and generously absorbing the flavours. It usually tastes like the spices it is cooked in as it is super absorbent.

Calamari – Nutritional Information

Grilled squid

Squid is generally considered a very healthy food. Mainly because it is low in calories and does not contain saturated fat. At the same time, squid or squid meat contains all the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are known to significantly improve overall health while reducing the risk of heart disease. Also, when it comes to squid tentacles, they are comparatively less nutritious than the body. However, both are rich in protein and vitamin B12. It is advisable to consume squid meat in moderation, since it is full of cholesterol, however, it can be controlled with the cooking method. To fully preserve its nutritional value and health benefits, squid meat should be grilled or steamed. Frying will only add calories or may drain most of the vitamins and minerals.

How to buy squid?

You can easily find fresh squid at any seafood market and in some select large grocery stores. However, if you can’t find fresh squid at your location, frozen squid works just as well. Squid or squid meat can be purchased pre-cut or whole depending on your needs. Pro Tip: When shopping for squid, try to buy squid meat that is pre-cleaned and pre-prepared, which makes prep significantly quicker and hassle-free.

How are squids made?

How are squids made?

When it comes to shellfish like squid, they can be cooked in a variety of ways. People often prefer their squid body cut into thin, bite-sized slices. How to cook it depends mainly on your preference and the type of squid dish you choose. Once it’s cleaned and cut, it’s pretty easy to prepare. It can be grilled, roasted and fried as well.

If you’re dealing with squid meat for the first time, it’s important to understand that for your squid to taste its best, you need to cook it for a short time or cook it for a long time on significantly low heat. Anything in between could lead to an undesirable chewy texture. Here is a list of 9 popular squid dishes that you can order for yourself or cook at home.

The 5 most ordered squid dishes

If you already love calamari and are excited to order it the next time you’re out for lunch with your daughters, here’s a list of 5 popular calamari dishes you can always count on.

1. Fried Calamari: If you know what squid is, it is one of the most common squid preparations in the world. Fried calamari, often served in rings, is one of the most popular dishes in Italian-American restaurants. It is quite simple and easy to do. Choose pre-cut squid rings if you want to make it in minutes. Bread the rings in flour, season with salt and pepper and fry. It can be served with lemon wedges along with a dip of your choice, typically marinara.

fried calamari with lemon slices and marinara sauce

2. Salt and pepper squid: Another popular squid dish is salt and pepper squid. Once again, a fairly simple and straightforward recipe. The meat is covered with cornstarch and fried until crispy. Add the seasonings of your choice to enhance the flavor along with salt and pepper. It usually 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 opt for spaghetti with squid ink, also known as spaghetti al nero di seppia. This dish is made by simply sprinkling squid ink on any traditional pasta dish, typically made with garlic, white wine, and garnished with parsley.

squid spaghetti

4. Spanish Paella: Another very common preparation of squid is the Spanish paella. In this recipe, the squid is cooked and served over saffron garlic rice. The dish also includes chicken and other seafood according to preference.

Spanish paella with squid

5. Ceviches: Another common seafood dish is ceviche. It is usually cooked based on preference, region, and availability. Along with squid meat or calamari, people also add shrimp and other seafood.

Other popular squid dishes are:

  • Calamari with Garlic Lime Sauce
  • Thai squid with basil
  • Grilled stuffed squid
  • Squid ink risotto
  • Squid Tacos

In this article, we understood what squid is, its nutritional value, how it differs from octopus, how to buy squid, how to cook it, and some common squid recipes. While squid is a fairly healthy seafood snack, it is high in cholesterol. You can definitely go for squid-based dishes unless you have shellfish allergies. If you have symptoms such as skin rashes, nausea, or shortness of breath after eating squid, you are probably allergic.

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

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