Squid. Even the word is silly sounding. Squid. Squid. Squid. Squid is not an animal that provokes the awwwww like cats. If I mention I love eating squid, most people wrinkle their noses. Isn’t that fish bait? Oh, if I had a dollar every time someone said that I could rent a nice place at the beach for a week. I know that not every flavor sits the same on the palate so I am not going to preach that everyone should eat squid. Instead, I’m going to tell you why I like it so much.
If you have been following this blog you know I was born in Pohang, South Korea – a coastal town on a peninsula. My uncle would go fishing often and sometimes whatever he caught was one of our meals. If he was lucky and bagged a huge red snapper, it was a feast. If he came home with only sea cucumbers, then the adults would have sashimi and drink while the rest of us ate something else. I learned to eat a variety of ocean critters and enjoyed most of them.
Let me clarify that the squid most Koreans eat are actually cuttlefish. I don’t want to get into the marine biology of all of that. You have Internet, obviously, so if you are interested Google your heart out. For my post I will just refer to them as squid, okay? Okay.
In Korea the way I was first introduced to squid as food was in dried form. My mom was a partier and she drank often. In Korea you eat a snack when you drink. One of her favorite snacks while drinking was “Oh Jing Uh” (dried squid). I remember sitting on the “table” in the middle of the courtyard. Yeah, that sounds weird – so the table was more like a free standing “deck”? It was a community table where we often ate meals or snacks on cool spring days. It was like how you eat on the screened in porch or at a picnic table.
So, while mama and her friends would drink, I would be their little gopher. I would get them more alcohol or snacks and as a reward they would hand me a bite or two of whatever they were eating. One time they handed me a dry tentacle of the squid that they had warmed on the charcoal grill. I know you are making a grossed out face right now – stop it! Open your mind! I took it without hesitation and the crunchy, chewy, sweet but acrid taste danced on my tongue and I was in love. You either love cilantro or you hate it- squid is the same thing.
I STILL eat dried squid and peanuts with beer once in awhile. It just tastes so good together! There are other ways to try squid that is less daring if you want to give it a go. I would suggest trying squid/peanut cracker snacks like these:
The squid flavor is not overpowering and the cracker part is kind of sweet. This snack actually came out AFTER I was living in the US so I didn’t get to try it until 1980. It is not my favorite but I think it is a good starter for anyone that wants to try something new. If you don’t even want to see the pieces of cuttlefish you could try something like this:
As you get braver, you can move up to this snack which is pure dried, roasted squid. It is conveniently cut up for you and there are no scary looking tentacles:
Once you have conquered that stage, you are ready to drink and eat like a real South Korean. Your snack table should look like this. Get a good quality Korean or Chinese beer, sit outside with your friends on a warm spring day and talk and laugh really loud and it will feel like you are in Pohang hanging with me! Try something new today!