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Calamar is the Spanish word for squid and the calamari dish, therefore, consists of fried squid rings in a batter or breadcrumb coating. The dish is usually served as a tapa, often with lemon wedges and aioli beside it.

What is calamari?

Calamar is the Spanish word for squid. When squid is the main ingredient, the Spanish plural form of calamari (pronounced: “kalla-MAR-ree”) is usually used. It’s a term that is also used to describe a dish consisting of fried squid rings in a coating of batter or breadcrumbs.

Calamari is not only on the menu in Spain but is eaten throughout the Mediterranean, though the Spaniards love and eat the dish most of all. The dish is served in Spain as tapa often with lemon wedges and aioli beside it and is known as calamares a la Romana (Roman squid). Another version is calamari rebozados (breaded squid). In Madrid, people prefer to eat the fried snack as a sandwich filling in a bocadillo.

Did you know...

To prevent squid from becoming too rubbery, it is first deep-frozen before use in the kitchen. This is usually done on the fishing boat, but fresh squid can also be placed in the freezer at home.

How to make calamari

The kind of squid with ten tentacles is the favourite for this dish. It has firm, white flesh with a mild taste, sometimes almost nutty. The hollow body of the squid is cut across into rings of approximately two centimetres.

While the cooking oil is heating up, a batter or breadcrumb mix is prepared, the ingredients of which vary from chef to chef. Sometimes the squid rings are simply dusted with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes the rings may then be dipped in beaten egg, but this is not always considered necessary. Sometimes a proper batter is made, with egg, flour, baking powder and mineral water, which is similar in appearance to Japanese tempura batter. It can be additionally flavoured with spices, for example, smoked paprika.

The coated rings are quickly deep fried in the hot oil. This makes the batter crispy while the squid remains tender. If it is cooked for too long, the squid will become rubbery and tough.

How to eat

If you take an authentic approach, lemon wedges should always be served with calamari: squeeze them over the squid rings and eat the dish hot. A dip, such as mayo or aioli also works well.

Please consider

This isn’t very Spanish, but is definitely worth a try: a jug of sake with your calamari!

Also try

Are you brave enough to try raw squid? Choose squid sushi, such as nigiri.

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