Stuffed Calamari Tempura

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The secret is in the stuffing
Tempura style stuffed calamari

We speak of them in hushed, reverent tones. Eyes look inward remembering the lightning and texture. Nostrils flare as eyelashes flicker to closed lids, focusing on the smells and tastes on the back of our tongue as we reconjured from memory “that perfect dish.” This appetizer is homage to that perfect dish created by my Dad back in the late ’70s.

More than thirty years has past and I can still taste the sherry cream sauce over a tender calamari body, stuffed with succulent crab and shrimp, nested on classic pilaf with slivered almonds. A time when we were newly married and my parents were enjoying the empty nest. Invited us to dinner…. just like grownups!  Dad was inspired by something he read in Food and Wine magazine, and subsequently served us something worthy of several Michlin stars, in the kitchen, at home. Unpretentious, matter of fact, his gift was one of the best things I have ever eaten. So much so, I have yet to dare it’s recreation. But in my own way I am honoring his artistry and creativity. In such moments, this is indeed … “a good fix.”

Like a contestant in a Chopped episode, I gathered ingredients on hand. Fresh enoki and bunashimeji mushrooms from a recent trip to the japanese supermarket, a package of frozen calamari and a little smoked salmon. Letting the creative adrenaline take me for a two hour ride of thawing, slicing, dicing, mixing and frying, we goobled up these delectible morsels. Our eyes slightly rolling as we dipped into the Wasabi Kissed Avocado Creme and took a bite. I did the whole tempura thing with fresh vegetables, but just the calamari and tentacles would make a nice appetizer in less time.

Tempura with Black & Mahogany Rice
Tempura with calamari, fresh veggies served with mahonany and black rice pilaf
Tempura Prep
Tempura Vegetables
Raw stuffed squid


Stuffed Calamari Tempura Appetizer

Serves 4

8-10 whole, cleaned calamari bodies & tentacles
1 box Hime Tempura Batter Mix
Peanut Oil for frying
4 tbl Enoki mushrooms
2 tbl Bunashimeji (Beech) mushrooms
2 tbl fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbl baby bok choy inner greens, no thick inner stem
2 tbl smoked salmon, flaked, no skin
2 tbl mozzarella cheese, finely grated
1 tbl Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tbl plain bread crumbs
½ tsp ground black pepper

1. Place wok on burner and pour in oil to at least 2” depth.
2. Rinse the squid and trim off any tentacles that are over long and make sure you don’t have any beak pieces remaining. Pat dry with paper towel inside and out, let rest on paper towel to absorb any remaining water. Must be completely dry before stuffing and frying.
3. Place 1 cups of ice and 2 cups of water in 4 cup measuring cup (will be used for tempura batter.)
4. Finely, finely chop the filling ingredients so they both combine well and are easily stuffed into the squid bodies.

Tempura cooking goes very quickly and you have no time to get distracted, so prepare in this order:

Stuff the calamari: Combine stuffing ingredients in bowl, stir to blend. Holding the squid body with opening towards you, gently spoon in stuffing mixture, press down inside tube with your finger until it is packed within ¾ inch of opening. From the outside of the tube, slide your thumb and forefinger from opening to top of mixture so that you can seal the opening with a toothpick. Insert toothpick horizontally across the top of the tube to seal, as if you were sewing it shut. Dust off any remaining stuffing that may have gotten on the outside of the tube. Set aside.

Heat wok oil to 350° – 360°F . Use frying thermometer to monitor and adjust heat to keep at temperature. If your temperature drops, your tempura will be soggy,

Mix tempura batter: according to box instructions use 1 ½ cups ice water to 2 cups batter mix, whisk to blend. You can add a bit more ice water tablespoon at a time if you want a thinner consistency.

Dip and fry: With tongs or chopsticks, hold stuffed calamari at toothpick end, dip in batter and drain off excess before laying it into the hot oil. Place only 3 – 4 in at a time, do not overcrowd and monitor your heat as you add more to the wok. Turn frequently, but gently until browned all over, 2-3 minutes. Note if you did not seal the tops well enough the stuffing may spill into oil, resulting in oil splatters. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve immediately! Nice with Wasabi Kissed Avocado Creme and Chili Sauce to dip in.

Cook’s Tips
You can use other types of oil for your deep frying, just make sure it is very light, neutral tasting and can withstand high heat (350° – 360°F)
If you cannot get fresh squid (calamari) some stores sell 12-16oz pkg of cleaned calamari in the seafood freezer section. Just thaw and rinse thoroughly, remove any remaining beak parts or too long tentacles. MUST, MUST be completely dry before stuffing, dipping and frying.
What is Black and Mahogany Rice? See Lundberg Farms

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