Dried Squid are used quite commonly as a cooking ingredient in the cuisines of China, Korea and the Philippines and are very popular, in various forms, as a snack food, particularly in Japan. The advantages of drying the product are not only for lengthy storage in the absence of refrigeration but, as with most dried foods, the flavor of the fresh article is considerably concentrated and enhanced.
Whole squid, untreated other than by the drying process, can be purchased in a variety of sizes, from over a foot long, to just a few inches or so in length and, once prepared for use, can be utilized in much the same was as fresh squid, albeit with some change in flavor and texture. Generally, good quality dried squid will still have quite a sweetish taste but as it ages it can be a little bitter sometimes so try and choose a product that has a nice, light color and avoid any that is very dark brown or is devoid of aroma…
Aside from whole squid, generally intended to be used as an ingredient in more complex culinary preparations, there is also a very wide selection of shredded and flavored products available for immediate consumption. Typically called ‘Squid Jerky’, these forms can be eaten as is, often as an accompaniment to beer or other drinks, but some types can also be used as a cooking ingredient as longs as they haven’t been flavored too strongly with seasonings like sugar or chili.
Here are three Japanese products seen on close up… The variety on the left is very soft when the package is first opened and, other than a very light addition of sugar, is not overly processed and could easily be added to soups, or other dishes without any further preparation. The middle kind is heavily spiced with chili, while the type on the right, consisting of very dry shreds, makes a nice snack but is a bit too sweet, in my opinion, for other uses.
How to Prepare for Use…
Dried squid is sometimes deep-fried as is, or else grilled over an open flame or burner before being consumed alone or in a sauce of some type. Generally, however, the product needs to be reconstituted before being included in other dishes. This can be achieved by simply soaking for several hours or overnight in plain water or, alternatively, in water to which baking soda (about 1 teaspoon or so per quart) has been added. The latter can be faster but there are some considerations:
First, plain water soaking will soften the dried squid but it doesn’t achieve the same level of expansion by rehydration as does an alkaline solution. On the other hand, this method does seem to preserve more of the flavor and the soaking water can be used as a broth.
Soaking with baking soda can, if you are in a hurry, produce faster results and, especially with longer soaking, can cause the flesh to really rehydrate and increase in size (thus making it an attractive method in the restaurant industry). There is however, a bit of diminution of taste, but, on the plus side, this actually has the benefit of reducing the bitterness you might otherwise have if you are in the situation of having a product that has been stored a little too long.
This squid has been soaked for just over an hour in water with baking soda added and is soft enough for use already. As you can see, it is quite soft and flexible and the flesh has ‘plumped’ up quite nicely.
However you soak your squid. You may need to remove the clear, plastic-like ‘bone’ found along the midline of the body. Sometimes this is removed already but, if not, you will need to discard it as it is inedible.
Lastly, squid have a speckled membrane on the outside that is occasionally removed before purchase but usually, especially with the larger ones, is still present. You don’t really need to remove this but most people do as it tends to improve the final appearance in prepared dishes. Once the squid is soaked, you can often just peel the membrane away with your fingers, or else scrape it off with the back of a knife.