Seafood Flavours : Quick Kerala Calamari
There are usually just two or three critical ingredients that can give any cooked dish its flavour. Indian food, while it may have an endless list of spices and other flavour-adding agents in every dish, can also be pared down to its basic critical inputs. Here’s a very simple dish, that doesn’t involve any chopping or cutting, and will make your guests appreciate how well versed you are in international cuisines!
One of the dishes I truly love from Kerala is the calamari, or squid. When I arrived in Cochin, I was a total non-fish-eater. But the tender, freshly-caught-from-the-waters-in-front-of-your-house nature of seafood is completely enticing, and before I knew it, I was a full-on Kerala Squid Rings fan – the key word here being ‘rings’.
In my initial stages of newfound seafood-joy, I was invited by our French seafood-supplier neighbor to come over for a barbecue dinner. At the dinner, there were these strange wiggly animals on the grill that didn’t look familiar at all.
My host exclaimed, following my eyes, “You said you love squid,” as I cringed at the sight of these soft, slimy, white animals with their curly, thin tentacles.
I have since matured as an eater, but anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I don’t do tentacles, as crunchy and as aesthetic as they may be. And neither do the Keralites, it seems.
Kerala squid is cooked in many ways – from a simple dish just coated in spices, to a masala-style with ginger, garlic, onions and even, sometimes, tomatoes. This is the simplest adaptation possible. What I love about this recipe is that there is no chopping involved (except the squid – which for the reasons above I buy pre-cut!)
The two basic ingredients that are adequate for a yummy dish are good-quality coconut oil and fresh curry leaves. If you are unable to get fresh leaves, dried curry leaves will also do for that unique, strongly herbal, yet spicy aroma that is key in South Indian cooking. Fennel, usually used in cooking meats, adds a unique flavour note. Red chili powder is necessary for the heat, and turmeric for both colour and flavour. The coriander helps give the squid rings a nice masala coating along with the other spices. And of course, in the Pepper Cook’s kitchen, there is no fun without pepper! A simple, easy yet very palatable dish!
Just mix in the turmeric, salt and chili powder with your hands to get an even mix of spices (and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards!)
Once you heat the oil, just stir the chilies and curry leaves for a few minutes (the chilies are optional and more for flavour than heat.) If you aren’t using a non-stick wok or pan, you might need to add a splash of water after adding the coriander and fennel.
Easy Kerala Calamari (Squid)
- 500 grams squid, cleaned and cut into rings
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric, ground
- ½ teaspoon (or less!) red chilies, ground
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 1 whole green chili (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander .
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
Wash squid and pat dry.
Apply salt, turmeric and red chili powder on cleaned squid. Mix well so squid is completely coated.
Heat coconut oil in a wok or deep frying pan on medium heat. Add curry leaves and stir for half a minute.
Add squid to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes, allowing any liquid in the pan to dry.
Add pepper, coriander and fennel. Squid is cooked in about 3-5 more minutes, once the liquid in the pan dries up. If your squid starts sticking to the pan, splash a teaspoon of water into the pan.
Squeeze half a lime on top, garnish with rings of sliced onions and serve.
Critical Ingredients: The coconut oil and curry leaves are key to authentic flavour. The green chili is optional, and not for heat, as it is not cut, but more for flavour. If ground fennel is not available, you could leave it out or substitute it with whole fennel crushed in a mortar or food processor. Just turmeric and red chilies with coconut oil and curry leaves will still give you a great dish!
For a print version of this recipe got to the link:
Many people asked me, why a recipe for squid as your first recipe, why not chicken? Because squid is not chicken – it is less seen, less tasted and more delicious when cooked! And also, it provides for a more impressive starter for you to serve to friends and family!
If you want to try a more complex flavoured squid, enlivened by the flavours of ginger, garlic, shallots and tomatoes, try my Kerala Masala Calamari!