Eat Greek #5 - Kalamaria

Fried squid

Kalamaria (squids) is the most popular seafood dish you will find in Greek tavernas, fresh or frozen. Fresh is the best, of course, but it is difficult to find fresh seafood especially in more touristic destinations with many customers. The good news is that even frozen seafood has no significant difference in taste when cooked properly, and Greek chefs are familiar with the secrets of preparing tender octopuses and squids. But if you insist on eating fresh squids, search for a seaside taverna in a small and less known place where a pier for fishing boats is present - usually fishermen sell part of their daily catch to the closest tavern and quantities are limited. You can also ask for advice locals or the hosts at the place where you are accommodated.
There are three main types of squid meals served in tavernas:

1. Kalamaria tiganita

Lunch by the sea

Kalamaria tiganita means fried squid. The portion consists of either deep fried circles and tentacles or whole-fried baby squids. In very rare occasions you may even get one big whole-fried squid and then you need to remove the long and thin transparent cartilage you will find inside (it looks like plastic, but it is not).

2. Kalamaria psita

Slices of grilled squid with herbs and olive oil

This means "grilled squids". Like in the fried version, it may be cut into circles or large pieces, or sometimes it may be grilled whole. When frozen, the grilled squid is a bit more chewy and not as tender but again, it depends on the cook.

3. Kalamaria gemista

Sliced calamari stuffed with local cheese and herbs

Kalamaria gemista is "stuff squids" and it is not as common as the above two variants. In this recipe, the squids may be either grilled or stewed in a pot in the oven. The grilled squid recipe requires one whole big squid and it is stuff with local cheese (especially on the islands where almost every island has its own type of cheese), spices, herbs and onion. The stewed recipe uses a few smaller squids and their texture is extremely tender after cooking. The main stuffing is rice, onion and sometimes tomatoes, and the rest varies according to the region. On Crete they use plums and lemon, on Lesbos - cinnamon and ouzo, in other places - raisins, so the dish may taste very different.

The English word used in the menus for "kalamaria" is always "squids" but if you look at the Greek version, you can see καλαμάρια (plural), καλαμάρι (singular) and sometimes you can even meet the word θράψαλα (thrapsala) which is also translated as "squids". Thrapsalo is another type of squid (and namely a type of cuttlefish) which has shorter and wider body, but there is no difference in taste and it is even preferred for stuffing when baked in the oven.

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