The term calamari is the English culinary name for squid dish – particularly the dish that covers squid meat in flour or batter and deep fries for crispiness, similar to how veal is the “culinary name” for calf meat and beef for cow meat.
This means that no part of the squid is specifically referred to as ‘calamari’, rather, the squid dish itself (the Mediterranean variant which batters and cooks squid into a crispy texture) is what is referred to as calamari.
The culinary name “calamari” as tied down to the specific method of preparation highlighted above, most likely originated in the United States in the late 20th century when the dish crossed over the borders possibly with immigrants.
Where did the name calamari come from?
The name “calamari” is a word borrowed into the English community (only God knows when) which now serves as the culinary name for squid dish, particularly the dish that involves deep frying battered squid. The exact source (language) for the culinary term is still up in the air with three possible originators.
- Spanish “calamar” – which means squid.
- Italian “Calamaro” – which is the singular term for squid and calamari its plural version.
- Modern Greek “Kalamari”.
Even though the origin is still subject to debate, one thing is still clear, and that’s the source for all the three words from each originators mentioned above, which is the Greek kalamos which means “pen”.
Aha, now, we’re starting to see the connection don’t we? Pen, in reference to the squid’s long tapering internal shell and its ink.
Is calamari a squid or octopus?
Depending on what definition we choose to pick for calamari, it could either mean the squid itself (Italian et al. meaning) or a dish of squid (in the United States), but never a dish of octopus or a variety of it.
Is calamari a Japanese food?
In very specific terms, calamari as a marinated, battered and deeply fried squid is chiefly a Mediterranean cuisine, because that’s where it originated from.
But don’t get me wrong, the people of the Mediterranean basin aren’t exactly the first to ever put a scissors through a squid, and thus, it would be wrong to say that calamari; in its English meaning which translates to “ a dish of squid” is originated from there.
Squid has always been a popular staple for people in Asia, and its dishes are represented with by a wide variety of names depending on the methods of preparation and also the region where it is prepared, for example in Japan, nabemono is the culinary term for stewed squid whereas ikayaki refers to grilled squid.
Korea on the other hand, consumes freshly killed squid as san ojingeo and marinated and then cooked squid as Nakji Bokum.