Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 46 – Squid

Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, squid.

You are probably thinking that there isn’t anything particularly unusual or exotic about squid and you’d almost be correct. The little cephalopods are eaten pretty much all over the world and are known in many English speaking territories by the Italian name, calamari. But China, as usual, has a special way with the critters. In Chinese they are 鱿鱼.

To be edible, squid must be cooked for the briefest possible time, or slow cooked for hours. Anything in between is what results in the rubber band sensation. Not surprisingly, China nearly always goes for the brief stir fry approach. But even then, I find most Chinese restaurants still overcook them, or don’t serve them quickly enough, leaving them somewhat over chewy.

When you buy squid in the market or supermarket, they usually offer to prepare them for you. This involves removing the undesirable innards and the large bone which resembles a piece of plastic. Unfortunately, the locals only seem to know one way to prepare squid. They cut it open, score it in a cross-hatched pattern, cut it into postage stamp sized pieces and throw away everything except the main flesh and tentacles.

I prefer to prepare them myself. This allows me to cut it into rings if that is what my mood suggests, or keep them intact for stuffing, although to be fair, I usually follow the Chinese way. Also, by doing the job myself, I get the ink which can be used in all sorts of ways from colouring pasta to thickening sauces. The locals throw it away.

(By the way, if you ever wonder what squid eat, you may find out when gutting them. Occasionally, you can find undigested squid dinner in their stomachs.)

Squid’s last supper

But of course, the locals don’t stop there. A great delicacy and perfect beer food is dried squid – 巴掌鱿鱼, literally “hand squid”. Gutted squid are sun dried on bamboo mats until they dehydrate and turn leathery. They become somewhat salty and really smell of the sea. They are sold in this state, then grilled or fried briefly and served with a soy sauce dip. I love them with a gallon or two of chilled beer. Around ¥300 / kg, but that would keep you going for about a year. I usually buy four of the things and pay around ¥30.

Dried squid

An alternative is pre-shredded dry squid (鱿鱼丝) – a favourite across Asia. This is ready to eat and, again, is a great beer food. Peppery, salty  and fishy at the same time, this is much cheaper at around ¥93 / kg. Again, a kilogram would keep you going forever. I buy 80g bags for about ¥7.80.

Shredded dried squid

Happy squidery!

. This entry was posted on Friday, September 28th, 2012 at 10:00 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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