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
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
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
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.