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Friday, May 21, 2010

Fried Squid Fail

Squid, squid, squid. Every time I go to the market, I pass by the fish section, and whenever there is fresh squid there, they taunt me. “You are too chicken to try to cook us!” “Nyeah, nyeah, we know you’re not going to buy us—coward!”

Tray of Squid at Stutong Market

tray of squid

And truth be told, I walk away. Every. Single. Time. Without buying them. In the back of my mind, I think to myself. “C’mon, I can do this. Cooking squid isn’t that hard. What’s the big deal?” And then I think, “Oh man, the year is going to go by and I’m going to have to confess that I didn’t try cooking squid even though it was part of my resolution.”

So finally, one day, I stopped and taking a deep breath, I approached a fish vendor and bought half a kilo of his smallest squid. Because I didn’t know any better. And because small ones would cook faster and I would be less likely to botch it. See…I had my mind set on frying calamari. So I took home my half kilo and set to work.


Cleaned it out (that part took longer than I thought—first mistake I made in buying those much too small squid), cut them into rings. Tried a really simple recipe that looked way easy and pictures looked way delicious.

Squid Pieces Soaking in Milk

cut squid pieces in milk

The instructions in that recipe said, “Don’t fry squid for more than a minute otherwise they will get tough.” Ok, so I fried them for all of 20 seconds (in my heightened anxious state, every second seemed like 10 seconds). Dumped them on a paper napkin and fried some more (in batches right? For maximum crispiness?). Um, no…

I made so many mistakes. You already know mistake number one—they were too darned small (hard to clean, and see…squid shrinks when they cook so they turned out even smaller). Then there was the whole laying down my fried calamari on paper napkins—not wise at all. This from the woman who has advised you all to never let deep fried chicken touch a napkin lest you get a soggy mess. I mean, what was I thinking? Yeah, I blame that heightened state of anxiety again. Obviously, it short circuited my brain.

Mistake number three? Frying them for all of 10 seconds! Wait, didn’t I just say 20 seconds? I LIED! I tell you, I just stuck them in the oil (which was also too hot), and then before Nate (who was helping me) could pick up his camera to take a picture, I was screeching, “Take them out, they’ll be overcooked and taste like rubber! Hurry, hurry, hurry!”

So, we ended up cooking the half kilo and when we were done with the last of it, I turned to the plate and realized that the earlier batches were soaking in oil (because I didn’t have time to let it drain well in my hurry to remove the ones I had just put in) and the napkin was soaking up all the oil which was then being resoaked back into the squid.

So what did we have? A soggy, lump of battered squid. The last ones were still decently fried BUT when we took a bite, we might as well have had squid sashimi. They were undercooked, underwhelming in taste and certainly UN-crispy.

Fried Squid Fail

fried squid fail

I don’t blame the recipe I tried. I am sure it would have worked out better if I wasn’t hyper with nervousness about cooking squid. And I’m sure it would have been better if I had eased myself into cooking squid by doing something a little less challenging. I mean, talk about trying to conquer all my fears at one time. I already have issues with deep frying and to try to do squid for the first time AND deep frying is just cooking suicide. I thought I was being so bold and brave and sticking my tongue out at those taunting squid. I think I was just over ambitious.

So my first attempt was dismal. In this fight, the squid won and Annie went down in disgrace. Final tally—squid:1, Annie: 0.

But hear this squid—there will be other days ahead. I will pluck up my courage again and try another dish. And when that day happens, I will rise victorious and your taunts will no longer bother me.

Cheers, Annie


almadenmike said...

My first date with Lilian (way back when!) was to the Great Monterey Squid Festival (,9171,967821-1,00.html). We tasted it a dozen or more ways, then brought home a pound, where Lilian stir-fried it (quickly ... but without anxiety!), Malaysian style with lots of chiles. Yummmm!

Bob said...

Ah, fried squid, how I love thee. Once you get it right, you will realize how simple it all really is. Sounds like you already know what to do different.

Single Guy Ben said...

Oh, I give you a lot of credit for trying! I, too, am afraid of squid, but probably not for the same reasons. In Barcelona, I had amazing squid that were pan-fried or grilled, without any batter, so it was just this natural charring of the squid and then served simply with a squirt of basil oil to finish it. AH. MAZE.ING! I ate at that little counter in the La Boqueria market many days of my trip there. When I returned home, one day I saw squid at Ranch 99. They were pre-cleaned and in the plastic packages and I thought, they looked so beautiful! And reminded me of what I ate at Barcelona. So I bought a packet and took it home to do the same thing, just simple season and grill (because I'm not a fan of deep frying). But when I opened it, the squid smelled funny. I still decided to cook it and it was just weird in taste, almost spoiled or something. So lesson learned for me is to buy it fresh and clean it myself and not take it for granted that the pre-packaged fish at Ranch 99 is fresh. Your post though reminds me that I should try again. You should too! If you're successful next time, then maybe I'll definitely try again too!

Sharlene T. said...

Annie, you don't have to do it, again. You've done it! It wasn't a win or lose thing, it was a "I'm going to do this" thing and you've done it. Now, go back to less stressful cooking and enjoy your life. You can always ORDER squid someplace else...come visit when you can...

Peter M said...

Oh dear, sorry they didn't turn out but there is hope! They do need to be fried quickly but if you have the right temp oil, dry aquid and a nice flour mix, you're set to go.

I have a good fried calamari/squid recipe if you like.

Borneoboy said...

Hi Annie. My mum just clean them up, boil them and serve with a dipping sauce of sugar, chili, soy sauce and lime juice. Always delicious. Buy the big ones and get the seller to clean them for you. They will do it if they are not too busy so go towards later part of the morning.

Jenster said...

Don't feel bad -- The first time I tried to fry up a batch of calamari rings I had the oil set too high, resulting in a ton of dark smoke that set off my smoke detectors and stained my wallpapered kitchen. Needless to say, we don't deep-fry very often.

One easy way to cook squid is to cut them into rings and just throw into your stir fry. It picks up the flavor of the other ingredients and adds such a nice texture. We have also stuffed the squid tube (a larger squid body that hasn't been cut into rings) with cooked peas and ground beef seasoned with whatever we like and then baked them in the oven with some extra seasonings/sauce for a few minutes until the squid turns opaque.

We recently did a some squid dissections at my daughter's school for Science Day, and as the kids got grossed out, I got really hungry!

Miss Anne said...

I too have have a mixed history when it comes to squid (see such stories as "Miss Anne and the Giant Squid"). At least calamari are pretty cheap (at my local market) so practice, practice, practice is not too expensive. I find just lightly dusting in corn flour or rice flour and then shallow frying is a bit more manageable (and healthier). Eat the wings and tentacle too - they get all crispy and caramelised when you fry them!

Irene aka Sweet Surrender said...

It's not easy to deep fried squid, my mom gave up and just cook it with curry now ;p

Blessed Homemaker said...

I think you did a great job despite the hiccups. At least you've taken the first step to try cooking it. I'm sure you will do better next time.

I only succeeded after a few attempts too :P

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@all - thanks for your comments!

@almadenmike - well it sounds like Lilian knew what she was doing!

@Bob - I appreciate any suggestions to make our next experience better!

@Single Guy Ben - wait, you go next, and we'll follow you! ;-)

@Sharlene - good point! :-)

@Peter - thanks for the tips! I checked out your recipe...looks good, but we don't have corn meal (I assume that's what you meant by "corn flour" as opposed to corn starch) here in Kuching.

@BorneoBoy - good tip about getting the fishmonger to clean, thanks! So your mom does 'em boiled eh?

@Jenster - eesh! Setting off the smoke detectors - I hate when that happens!

@Miss Anne - hm, rice flour eh? I could try that, since I have it!

@Irene - another recipe to learn!

@Blessed Homemaker - care to share your expert tips? :D

Borneoboy said...

Hi Annie and Nate. When you get a nice big juicy squid, the best way to cook it is to boil it, then let it cool down before serving. The Teochew dip is lots of sugar, light soy, chili and lime juice. Very delicious eaten this way !

Food Gal said...

I am laughing so hard at this that tears are forming in my eyes. I can just picture you and Nate in the kitchen doing this. Too funny! Well, the squid may have won this time. But not for long. I predict a House of Annie rematch that will end in triumph. ;)