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Experiment: Squid Sashimi (using frozen Calamari)

A while ago, I featured Sea Quest Brand Frozen Calamari Rings in a ‘Foodstuffs’ post. In that post I opined that, while this product might be fine in any number of cooked preparations, it really wasn’t sashimi quality squid.

Since writing that post, I began to wonder if there was something I could do to do ‘rejuvenate’ the squid rings and render them tasty enough to eat raw. I love fresh squid sashimi, but fresh squid, along with so many things, is pretty much unavailable here in the far north and so it seemed like some sort of work around solution would be necessary. It struck me, as I thought about the problem, that maybe the ‘juice’ I made using Korean fermented shrimp might just add the required fillip to the frozen squid and maybe compensate for the diminished taste… 

The Process

I thawed about a handful of the frozen rings and picked out the best for slicing into strips. In many restaurant versions of this dish I have found that the pieces were cut way too finely (see my Wasabi Restaurant review) so, for this experiment, I tried to slice strips that wouldn’t be too chewy but would provide enough mouth feel to give some bite and allow the best of the taste to come through. The strips I cut were, as you can see, about 2-3 mm by 2 cm.

 Readers of my post on fermented shrimp may recognize that the juice I produced looks a little different in this picture in that the pureed shrimp has settled a little leaving a clear liquid at the top. I was rather hoping this would happen as I really wanted to have a pure ‘essence’ without sediment but the result was a little less than I hoped for.

A few years ago, my wife was quite into making wine and we used to have a filter that removed sediment from a brew before it was bottled. That would probably be perfect to clarify this shrimp juice as well, but we no longer have that piece of equipment and I’m not about to buy one for this limited use. Accordingly, for this experiment, I just used a turkey-baster to draw off the teaspoon or so of clear liquid I needed.

I mixed my strips with the shrimp juice and put it into the fridge. I planned to leave it for an hour or so but the battery in my camera died and I had to recharge it so I could take the picture of the finished presentation you see above. They ended up sitting for nearly three hours, all told.

After I removed the strips from the fridge, I did a quick taste test and found it to be just a little harsh. To remedy this, I added a tiny pinch of sugar and mixed it in.

As for the presentation, you could simply put the squid in little dishes with a bit of garnish if you liked. I decided to try and be a little fancy but I’m not going to go into the actual details as this was my first foray into carving the cucumber cups you see in the very first picture and I am hardly expert enough to attempt to ‘instruct’ you. The cups are sitting on spinach leaves and the garnish is a leaf or two of parsley with some red lumpfish caviar. Tobiko, or flying fish roe would be more traditional, especially in a Japanese Sashimi restaurant, but caviar is all I had on hand. The result is hardly restaurant quality but I don’t think I did too badly for a first try…

The Verdict

The bottom line here is that if you want the experience of absolutely fresh squid sashimi, you need to begin with absolutely fresh squid. Still, the results here were really quite decent… good enough, certainly, that I will make this again when my wife returns from her current trip to Costa Rica. The sugar cut the saltiness and the slightly harsh taste that I first noticed and the shrimp juice really did give back some of the sea flavor that the frozen product had lost. All in all, I was quite pleased.

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