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salt & pepper calamari

I just had a rare and wonderful food surprise. I got salt & pepper calamari for the very first time ever - ordered at a usually mediocre hole-in-the-wall chinese food place.

I enjoyed a delicious, nuanced, satisfying meal. I love squid - but if it is not cooked well it is terrible, so I don't generally choose it while eating out.

Each piece of squid was very lightly coated in some kind of seasoned batter, fast cooked, dressed with a light and delicious sauce mixed w/ diced red pepper and thin slices of green chile. Some salt, some spice warmth, some tang - but nothing so strong as to overwhelm the subtle flavor of the tender squid itself.

So, now I'm on a mission...where do you go in Boston for Salt&Pepper Calamari?

Bonus points for someone who can explain why restaurants serving cuisines from all parts of the world frequently use the Italian word for squid.

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  1. East Ocean City and Peach Farm, both in Chinatown, have excellent S+P Squid. Calamari has become kind of the standard term for squid, mainly from a marketing standpoint; it sounds much more exotic than "squid." It would be the equivalent of using the term "bistro" to describe any small restaurant - it's a catchy word to try to lure customers in.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RandMan14

      thanks - I intend to become an intrepid reporter of salt and pepper squid for a week or two - so I appreciate your contribution to the cause.

      I don't even know the basic facts of this meal - the template - I just know that I like salt, pepper, and squid.

      Any clues on what the standard qualities of the dish should be - aside from tasting good, and not smothering the experience of eating micely cooked squid?

      1. re: lunchout

        My favorite version, at Peach Farm seafood, has a light non-greasy fry job and plenty of seasoning, including jalapeƱos or other chiles fried right in with the squid. Peachfarm also do great S&P shrimp, and S&P pork. I like a combo.

    2. New Jumbo Seafood, also in Chinatown, is another favorite.

      I don't know much about standard qualities of the dish, but what I've had and enjoyed is not usually topped with a sauce so much as a dry mixture of finely sliced green chile, red pepper, salt, and cracked Szechuan peppercorns. Like most fried foods, best eaten as quickly as possible before it cools off. An actual sauce would make the dish soggy.

      Where is the "usually mediocre hole-in-the-wall" where you had your introduction?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Allstonian

        Food Wall in Jamaica Plain... and, really - it was quite good. It'll be fun to check out your recommendations and see ow that contextualizes my Food Wall experience...

        I'm cheered that you all are throwing some info my way...an unplanned for vacation has been trust upon me, and I look forward to talking people into going out to eat some squid with me - in service to this special mission.

        1. re: Allstonian

          You might also find some good places in this thread. Although it covers all kinds of calamari preparations, there are quite a few recommendations of S&P calamari in there as well.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/311938

          1. re: Allstonian

            I'll second New Jumbo. I really like Peach Farm's, but feel that Jumbo does a slightly better fry job.

          2. Kantin in the Super 88 food court

            1. I've enjoyed a similar dish of lightly fried small tender pieces of calamari but sprinkled with some kind of aromatic peppery salt--does anyone know what that is called? I would love to have some more.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cassis

                That version is usually listed on menus as "spicy salt calamari."

                Re: calamari. Supposedly, when Joyce Chen opened her first restaurant in the North End in the '50s, she called potstickers "Peking ravioli" (a term you still see on some old-school Chinese-American menus around here) so they would seem less foreign. I've always assumed calling squid "calamari" in Chinese restaurants worked under the same principle.

                I only order calamari in Chinese restaurants anymore, actually. Order fried calamari most places these days, all you get is rings. Rings are fine, but I want tentacles!

                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  Me too! that's the best part!!

                  Thanks for the spicy salt. Can't wait to have some, now that I know.

              2. Peach Farm has great salt & pepper calamari but I have to award my fave S & P Calamari to PF Changs. They also offer a 5-spice powder to dip into as well.

                1. My vote is for East Ocean City and if you enjoy that Salt & Pepper treatment of calamari then try their version of King Crab done in a similar manner but without the batter. The spiciness of the chilli pepper along with the salt give the crab an incredible flavor

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RoyRon

                    I am really looking forward to trying the East Ocean City "Salt and Pepper Calamari/Squid" and was getting geared up to maybe go tonight, but I just looked on their menu and there is nothing listed under the name "Salt and Pepper Calamari/Squid" . "Fried Squid with Spicy Salt" is listed, but from the above that sounds like a different dish. Does Salt and Pepper Calamari go by a different name? Do you just order it notwithstanding it is not on the menu? I also don't see the Salt and Pepper King Crab..... Help!!!

                    Here is the menu:

                    http://www.eastoceancity.com/dinner.html

                    1. re: drbangha

                      I'm pretty sure that is the right dish (I think I remember it having the right Chinese characters next to it). The s&p crab (whether it's dungeness or king crab) has never been on their english menu. It might be on their Chinese menu, but we typically just ask for it when we put in our order.

                  2. I occasionally get this dish at Eastern Pier near the World Trade Center for take out. I like it but it's not perfect---it may be because the dish doesn't 'travel' well.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                      Agree. I love New Jumbo's version in person, but when I had Dining In deliver from there, it certainly lost something during the travel time.

                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        I'm not surprised - even in the restaurant, it's best eaten quickly while it's still fresh and hot, and loses some of its fabulousness as it cools.

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          Is the "Salt and Pepper Calamari" you order from New Jumbo item C10 on the below?

                          http://www.newjumboseafoodrestaurant....

                          1. re: drbangha

                            Yes - called Spicy Salt Calamari on their menu. I tend to think of the two names as interchangeable.

                            1. re: Allstonian

                              Thanks Allstonian- I am a newcomer to this. It seems BarmyFotheringayPhipps above disagrees. Anybody else care to chime in? Spicy Salt=Salt and Pepper?

                              1. re: drbangha

                                I think of the two as being interchangeable as well.

                                1. re: drbangha

                                  The difference, if any, is exceedingly minor and mostly has to do with how finely the chili is minced. They are indeed interchangeable names.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    On Saturday night we did back to back chowing of East Ocean and then Peach Farm S&P squid. Both were good, but we both though East Ocean was superior.