Calamares may be the plural of squid in Spanish but in the Philippines, it is a dish of crispy deep fried battered squid rings. A lovely party finger food and perfect for the coming holiday parties.
This dish brings back so many college memories. We frequented a place near the university where the house specialties were a sausage and onion dish, spicy gambas (a student-priced version of the the classic Spanish gambas al ajillo) and calamares. Cold beer seemed to taste better when accompanied by one or all of those dishes.
How is Filipino-style calamares cooked? The squids are cleaned, skinned, trimmed, coated with batter and deep fried. How the coating of the squid rings is prepared varies. Some cooks like to dredge the squid rings in flour, dip them in beaten eggs and coat them in bread crumbs before frying. Others dip the squid rings in a thickish batter made with iced water and flour before they go into the hot oil.
Here at home, we do it differently. Alex, who cooked tonight’s calamares, made the batter with cold beer and vodka. She tossed the squid rings lightly in seasoned flour before dipping them in the batter to help prevent the batter from sliding off the slippery squid rings. The seasoning came in three stages. The squid rings were seasoned with salt and pepper before they were tossed in flour whisked with lemon pepper seasoning. The batter contained the third layer of seasonings.
In other words, Alex’s calamares was not dependent on the dipping sauce at all. Even without the dipping sauce, the crispy battered squid rings were perfectly tasty.
Filipino Calamares (Crispy Deep Fried Battered Squid)
- 500 grams squid each about 4 inches in length
- 3 teaspoons salt divided
- 2 teaspoons pepper divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour divided
- 1 teaspoon lemon and pepper seasoning (available in the spice section of the grocery)
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 cup cold beer
- 2 tablespoons cold vodka
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- oil for deep frying
For the dipping sauce
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- Rinse the squids and drain. Clean, skin and trim (see step-by-step instructions). Cut into 1/4-inch rings. Wipe with paper towels.
- Toss the squids with 2 teaspoons salt and and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- In a bowl, whisk two tablespoons flour with the lemon and pepper seasoning. Add the seasoned squids and toss to lightly coat each piece with the flour mixture.
- Make the batter by stirring together the starch, remaining flour, beer, vodka, cayenne and the remaining salt and pepper.
- Pour enough cooking oil in a frying pan to reach a depth of at least two inches. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350F. If you don’t use a thermometer, watch out for fine wisps of smoke to float on the surface of the oil.
- Cook the squid rings in batches. Dip each piece of squid in the batter and drop into the hot oil. Repeat until you have six to eight pieces frying in the oil. Cook the squid for one to one and a half minutes per side. DO NOT overcook. Squid turns tough and rubbery when overdone. The trick here is to do the frying at the correct temperature so that the coating turns brown and crisp without overcooking the squid. When the squid pieces are done, scoop out and move to a strainer. Repeat until all the squids are battered, deep fried and cooked.
- Pile the deep fried squid on a platter.
- Stir together the ketchup and mayo in a small bowl and serve on the side as a dipping sauce.