Cooking 101 – Cleaning and Preparing Squid

Cooking 101 - Squid 008 edited re-sized

Squids feature in many different cuisines around the world. Watching my maid clean them used to intrigue me, especially when the black ink oozed out when she accidentally broke the ink sac. Those days, I didn’t know that the ink is a valuable component of several dishes in Malay, Italian and Spanish cuisine ( likely in others that I don’t know of). The photo above shows a cleaned squid with skin on,  2 ink sacs on the top right corner and just for fun, the heads with visible beaks.

If your recipe calls for skin off, just rub your finger over the skin and peel it like an onion.

A fresh squid should be firm to the touch, have a fresh sea smell, shiny eyes, firm skin that covers the whole squid, and shouldn’t be slimy.

If you are cooking a stir fry which requires pieces of squid with a lovely pattern on them, scroll towards Steps 6 and 7.

Let’s get to business!

STEP 1. With one hand holding the mantle and the other holding the head, pull to separate them. Sometimes, you are surprised by an undigested “present” . Pull the two ends totally apart. One end will be the mantle with its 2 fins and the other end will be the head with all the organs and the ink sac.

STEP 2. Look for the cellophane backbone, hold tightly onto the tip of backbone and pull it right out.

STEP 3. To ensure that you don’t have black ink spreading and causing a mess, look for it below the head, grab hold it the sac at the top tip and gently pull to remove. Photo above shows that the ink sac is leaked. Remove it quickly (save it in a small container if it is needed for your recipe) and wash affected pieces and the cutting board. Dry board before proceeding.

STEP 4. Separate the arms and tentacles from the head as these are edible. Make a cut just above the eyes.  In the photo above you see the muscle around the mouth piece has been slit. It doesn’t matter. The beak in inside there. Cut through to totally separate as shown in photo below.

STEP 5. Proceed to remove the skin if you prefer to do so. Just rub your finger over the skin on the mantel and peel. The pair of fins at the tail end will also come off with the skin. Just continue to  peel.

STEP 6.  Some recipes require you to score the mantle and the fins. Slit the mantle to open it out. Using a sharp knife, score  the inside of the mantle or underside of the fins. Do not cut through. Photo shows the angle at which you should hold the knife to make slits. This way you will have deeper and prettier pattern.

STEP 7. Cut the mantle into 4 or 6 pieces, depending on the size of your squid and the requirements of you recipe.

You might find my article called “Going Marketing and Sorting Purchases” useful. Click here to read it.

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