All About Dried Squid

Dried squid, a popular beer snack in many parts of the world, has an interesting history and all sorts of uses in the kitchen. From its origins in traditional Asian cuisine to its modern popularity in many global dishes, dried squid offers a unique flavour profile and texture that can enhance a multitude of recipes.

In this guide, we will explore different methods of preparation and recipes that showcase the many culinary possibilities of this seafood.

Browse all seafood and tinned fish here and take a look at similar dried fish ingredients.

Introduction to Dried Squid

Origins and Cultural Significance

Dried squid has its roots deeply embedded in Asian cuisine, where it has been eaten as a staple for centuries. Originating from coastal communities that needed to preserve their catch, drying squid became a practical solution to extend its shelf life.

Over time, this necessity turned into a cultural preference, with dried squid being enjoyed for its intensified flavour and chewy texture. In countries like Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, it is common to find dried squid as a snack, often served with beer or as a side dish.

The cultural significance of dried squid extends to festive occasions and celebrations, where it is considered both a delicacy and a symbol of prosperity. As a testament to its enduring appeal, dried squid has crossed oceans and is now appreciated in many parts of the world for its unique taste and heritage.

The Process of Drying Squid

The process of drying squid is both an art and a science, perfected over generations. It begins with the careful selection of fresh squid, which is then cleaned and prepared for drying. The traditional method involves gutting and opening the squid flat to maximise the surface area exposed to the sun.

In some regions, they are lightly salted to aid preservation and to add flavour. The squid is then laid out on racks and left to dry under the sun, a practice that can take days and requires constant attention to ensure even drying and to prevent spoilage.

Modern methods may use dehydrators or controlled drying rooms to achieve a consistent quality. The end result is a dried squid that retains the essence of the sea with a concentrated taste and a firm, jerky-like texture, ready to be enjoyed as is or used as an ingredient in various dishes.

Preparation of Dried Squid

Unpacking and Storing

Upon acquiring dried squid, proper unpacking and storage are crucial for maintaining its quality and flavour. Initially, remove the squid from any packaging and check for any signs of moisture or spoilage, which can quickly ruin the product. For long-term storage, keep the dried squid in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.

An airtight container is ideal to prevent the squid from absorbing moisture from the air, which can lead to a loss of texture, colour, and potential bacterial growth. If your kitchen is prone to humidity, consider storing your dried squid in the refrigerator. The low temperature will help preserve its freshness for several months.

Always ensure your hands are clean and dry when handling dried squid to avoid introducing moisture, and seal the container tightly after each use to maintain the desired dryness and quality.

Rehydrating and Cleaning

Before using dried squid in cooking, it often requires rehydration. This step is key to restoring its tenderness and making it more palatable.

Begin by soaking the dried squid in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on its thickness. Some prefer to go longer and add a splash of rice wine or vinegar to the water, which can help neutralise any strong odours and soften the squid further.

Once it has become pliable, drain the squid and rinse it thoroughly under cold water to remove any residual salt or impurities.

The next stage involves cleaning the squid. Remove the beak, which is the hard, pointy part located at the centre of the tentacles, and the quill, a transparent shard-like piece inside the body. Finally, gently pat the squid dry with paper towels, and it's ready to be sliced and cooked according to your recipe. This preparation ensures that the distinctive taste of dried squid can be enjoyed in its full, rich glory.

Culinary Uses of Dried Squid

The Role in Asian Cuisine

Dried squid plays a significant role in Asian cuisine, where it is not just a food item but a part of the region's culinary identity. In countries like South Korea, it is a popular street food known as 'ojingeo-twigim', served deep-fried and seasoned.

In Japan, 'surume' refers to dried squid that is often shredded and enjoyed as a snack with sake. In Chinese cooking, dried squid adds depth to soups and congee, infusing them with a robust umami flavour.

Beyond these traditional uses, dried squid is also incorporated into rice dishes, stir-fries, and stuffing, enhancing meals with its distinctive savoury taste. Its ability to absorb flavours makes it an excellent ingredient in spicy and bold dishes.

The texture of rehydrated dried squid also adds an appealing contrast in dishes, providing a chewy component that is both satisfying and culturally emblematic of the Asian dining experience.

Incorporating into Western Dishes

While dried squid is a cornerstone of Asian cuisine, its use in Western cooking is gaining popularity as chefs seek to introduce new textures and flavours to familiar dishes. Dried squid can be finely chopped and added to seafood chowders, imparting a unique complexity to the broth. It can also be a bold addition to pasta sauces, particularly those with a tomato or cream base, where it complements the other seafood ingredients.

For a more direct application, dried squid can be rehydrated, grilled, and served as an appetiser, drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

It can also be incorporated into paella, offering an alternative to traditional meats and chorizo, or used as a pizza topping for an oceanic twist on the classic Italian dish. The key to integrating dried squid into Western dishes is to balance its strong flavour with other complementary ingredients, ensuring a harmonious blend of tastes and textures.

Dried Squid Recipes

Traditional Asian Recipe: Dried Squid Soup

One of the most comforting and traditional ways to enjoy dried squid is in a simple yet flavourful soup. To prepare dried squid soup, start by rehydrating the squid as previously described. Slice the tender squid into bite-sized pieces.

In a pot, sauté some garlic and ginger until fragrant, which will form the aromatic base of your soup. Add the dried squid and stir for a couple of minutes, then pour in chicken or vegetable stock.

Bring the mixture to a simmer and add your choice of vegetables, such as bok choy or mushrooms. Season the soup with soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, and a dash of sesame oil for a rounded taste. Allow it to simmer until the vegetables are tender.

This soup is not only warming but is also believed to have health benefits in traditional Asian medicine. Serve hot, garnished with spring onions and a few drops of chilli oil for an extra kick, if desired.

Fusion Recipe: Dried Squid Pasta

Dried squid pasta is a delightful fusion dish that marries the umami-rich flavour of dried squid with the comforting familiarity of Italian cuisine. Begin by rehydrating and slicing the dried squid into thin strips. Cook your pasta of choice al dente and set aside. In a pan, heat olive oil and sauté minced garlic until golden. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat and toss in the rehydrated squid, cooking until slightly caramelised.

Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness. Stir in a handful of cherry tomatoes and cook until they start to burst.

Toss the cooked pasta into the pan, adding a bit of pasta water to create a light sauce that clings to the noodles. Finish with a generous sprinkle of chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy this cross-cultural culinary creation.

Health Benefits and Considerations

Nutritional Value of Dried Squid

Dried squid is not only valued for its taste but also for its nutritional benefits. It is a good source of protein, essential for building and repairing tissues in your body. Additionally, it provides a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, known for their role in heart health and cognitive function.

Dried squid is also rich in vitamins, such as Vitamin B12, which has shown is crucial for maintaining healthy nerve cells and producing DNA.

Minerals like selenium, phosphorus, and calcium are present in dried squid, contributing to bone health, metabolism, and thyroid function. However, it's important to note that dried squid can be high in sodium due to the salting process involved in its preservation.

Those monitoring their salt intake should enjoy it in moderation. Furthermore, it is a low-fat food, making it a suitable option for those managing their weight. Enjoying dried squid as part of a balanced diet can contribute to overall health and well-being.


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