Squid is an essential ingredient of that tasty rice-seafood-chicken dish beloved in Spain known as paella. There’s no perfect paella without calamari. It’s the same case as concocting this dish without saffron – don’t ever be caught doing that in Spain or risk the scorn of true-blooded paella lovers. That’s how important squid is to paella. But, are you aware of another popular Spanish dish that uses calamari? It’s that sandwich drenched in gustatory divineness – bocadillo de calamares.
My delicious plate of bocadillo de calamares (also called bocata de calamares) costs 2.50 euro at Museo del Jamon Restaurante, located at Calle de San Jeronimo, Puerta del Sol
Jamon owns the title of Spain’s premier food – there’s no doubt about that. But, being a big sea food lover, I’m glad that the spotlight’s also on this squid sandwich fare. In fact, calamares is among the top choices as far as bocatas are concerned. At first, I thought it’s an odd combination, calamari and bread. But after the first bite, I fell for it instantly. Since then, my palate has been pestering me in a regular fashion, making me crave incessantly for this wonderful deliciousness of a sandwich to which I have no choice but to satisfy – to my own utter delight.
Bocadillo de Calamares is traditionally paired with a copa of chilled local beer (Mahou), but I’ve grown used to eating it with cold cola, which for me is the perfect wash-down beverage. Here, we dined at Cerveceria Plaza Mayor Bar, where a meal of bocata de calamares and cola is worth 5 euro. We paid an extra 10 for dining on its terrace.
Fried to perfection
The squid is dipped in batter and deep-fried just right to ensure that the meat isn’t tough or rubbery. Bocadillo restaurants in Madrid always cook their squid to perfection, and rightly so, unless they want their diners to endure prolonged mastication for naught (and lose valued patronage as a result). In the end, it is a simple bread-and-fried-calamares affair; but no doubt everyone will agree it to be exquisite gastronomically.
My fill for the day from La Ideal bar, located at Calle Botoneras. It serves some of the tastiest squid bocatas around, giving “next-door neighbor” La Campana good competition. The restaurant seems serious about its quick-service mission; always got my takeaways in a jiffy the few times I was there – whether there were huge crowds or not.
I veer away from those fancy restaurantes that offer hours-long dining consisting of multi-course meals (well, you have no choice really but to shun them if you lack the necessary ‘efectivo’), and rather eat bocadillo de calamares at my favourite sandwich bar. But what I really love about these establishments is that despite wanting on frills and refinement, they compensate with a generous amount of calamares. Yes, this is true every time. I like how my favorite bars like La Campana and Cerveceria Plaza Mayor fill my baguette plenty with these squid rings like there’s no tomorrow.
Bocadillos at Plaza Mayor are usually overstuffed with calamares to the point that pieces spill onto the plastic bag (which is totally fine with me since I’d have more to munch on). Prices range from 2.50 to 3.50. The popular La Campana Bar also found at Calle de Botonelas sells them for 2.70 euro each.
It’s common for calamares restaurants in Madrid to serve it baguette-and-squid plain – and nothing else on. This way, customers can appreciate fully the taste of the squid meat. Hence, don’t go looking for condiments spread over the squid rings – like mayonesa, aioli, lemon, or the other usual. Still, they are available upon request; restaurants readily accede knowing that some customers would want tweaks on their sandwich’s taste once in a while. But for me, the bare calamares-bocata combination always works just fine – it’s more than enough to satisfy my hunger.
You might think that a sandwich as delicious as this might be complicated to prepare. On the contrary, it’s never rocket science. Once, I’ve seen a sandwich guy fry the squid rings, stuff them onto the baguette, wrap it, and hand it to the customer faster than you can say Jack Robinson.
Suffice it to say that even if bocadillo de jamon is hands down the one sandwich to beat here in Spain, calamares holds its own, and is an equally favorite option of many. It’s a must-eat bocadillo, one that shouldn’t be missed by any first-timer in Madrid. In my case, if I were to choose between jamon and calamares, I’ll go for the latter any time of the day.