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Sep 18, 2006 11:47 PM

Cuttlefish or Squid?

At a charming riverside bistro (not my choice) last week, the waiter said the calamari was "like chains" so we got some. Now, it was breaded and fried , but not "linked together" at all. But, it was very stringy. My question is, what WAS it? Squid, or Cuttlefish? And with that kind of preparation, can you even tell?


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  1. Here's an image of fried cuttlefish rings (not necessarily typical), which look thinner than squid heads are typically cut:

    Either way, I don't understand the "chain" idea except that one could conceivably cut up a cylinder of flesh so that the rings remained attached at alternating ends (but not interlocking like rings on a chain). That might be an Asian-inspired presentation effect, but that it just sheer speculation on my part; obviously, your rings were completely.

    And the matching tentacles:

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S

      They were just stringy and did not have that thick, meaty-white, chunky quality that I was expecting.


    2. In my experience cuttlefish are even meatier and chunkier than squid (though I live in the fried squid capital of the world and I've never seen fried cuttlefish rings--they are nearly always grilled). It sounds to me like the squid was overcooked.

      2 Replies
      1. re: butterfly

        Well then this place in Fort Worth, which served really thick, meaty, long calamari "fingers" was probably using cuttlefish, whereas at the place posted about above (where it was so stringy), just overcooked the squid. I guess I'll mark it off the list.


        1. re: butterfly

          That's my experience as well. Cuttlefish tends to be meatier than squid. And in my experience, it is less flavorful than squid.

        2. There are multiple species of squid, they come in different sizes.

          What many call Calamari is called market squid among commercial fishermen in California. Market squid are around 10/lb. The inside diameter of a market squid is about the size of a nickle.

          Humboldt Squid is a commercial available (jumbo) squid, fished in the near Pacfic Ocean, usually in South America. Humboldt squid harvested for market are around 20 lbs each. Those squid are usually skinned and cut into ~6" squares. Further preparation is: pounding for sale as steaks, or slicing in "fingers". A local Chinese style restaurant sells the "fingers", they cut slices into the fingers so they twist or curl, dust them with flour or corn starch and deep fry them.
          Homboldts are one of the "killer squids", can reach very large sizes, perhaps 15-20', 500-800 lbs. When I fshed for them, I usually heard stories about some fisherman getting pulled into the water by an aggressive Homboldt, not sure if it is an "urban legend", but the story is usually about a Mexican panga fisherman who survives.

          The only cuttlefish I have seen in California has been dried and processed in Asia, imported as a dried snack.

          Both cuttlefish and squid look similar but I believe they had different "skeletons" or internal bone structure. A squid's "pen" is lighter than a cuttlefish's "pen".

          1. Sounds like cuttlefish to me. I used to live in a chow-desert and the restaurants there would serve cuttlefish strips as squid. Not only did they have an odd unreal flavour but there was this funny part mealy/part tough texture, I still shudder to think of it. I stopped going to a fairly decent brewpub because of "cost saving" decisions like this one, too bad.

            8 Replies
            1. re: steinpilz

              It was like eating string. Does that help?


              1. re: TexasToast

                Sounds like it was overcooked. I've seen whole cuttlefish bodies at my Chinese charcuterie and they are a bright yellow/orange with an oval body. I've never tried, since I am more interested in the pork products.

                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Yes, if was chewy, it was overcooked.

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    Uncooked cuttlefish has a black inky exterior "skin", which when peeled away or cleaned properly is very white. Those orange cuttlefish in Chinese charcuteries were probably roasted (in soy sauce and probably with other meats) so that's why they are a bit orangey. They're delicious! You should try them next time. Cooked that way, they taste more meaty than shellfishy.

                  2. re: TexasToast

                    I wonder if there's a difference based on how the cuttlefish is cut, like lobster tail... crosswise vs lengthwise? Don't know really.

                    1. re: steinpilz

                      I don't know, but I've gotta skedaddle to dinner so I'll ponder that over Unagi.


                      1. re: steinpilz

                        The cuttlefish I mentioned is whole and they chop it up to order. My impression was that they cut it across the body. These creatures are not your tiny calamari. They are almost the size of half a football and have a large head, but short tentacles (possibly trimmed before cooking?). The color is alarming.

                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                          Yeah, I think just about everything regarding cuttlefish is alarming... sort of a purple football with small tentacles as I recall, I'm permanently biased against cuttlefish I guess.