Bandari-spiced calamari with tomato–coriander sauce

Bandari-spiced calamari with tomato–coriander sauce

Mark Roper

Locally caught calamari, octopus and cuttlefish are all popular in the villages and towns on the Persian Gulf. They are sometimes braised slowly in a tomato-based sauce, but frying is also popular – usually in a light dusting of turmeric flour. I am not wild about slow-cooking calamari – and let’s face it, everyone loves it crisp-fried and golden. I’ve used a spice mix that’s really popular in this part of Iran to jazz up the coating. The accompanying tomato sauce is light and fresh.


Quantity Ingredient
6 x 120g calamari, cleaned, (tentacles reserved)
100g fine semolina
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
vegetable oil, for shallow-frying
rice, to serve
flatbread, to serve
pistachio slivers, (optional)
2 teaspoons Bandari spice mix

Tomato-coriander sauce

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Bandari spice mix
1 teaspoon tomato paste
300ml crushed tomatoes
250ml water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup shredded coriander leaves


  1. To make the tomato–coriander sauce, heat the oil in a heavybased saucepan over a low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the Bandari spice mix and fry for another couple of minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes and water and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  2. Split the calamari tubes lengthwise, then trim the sides neatly. Use a very sharp knife to score a fine diamond pattern on the inner surface.
  3. Combine the semolina, spice mix and salt in a bowl. When the sauce is ready, heat a shallow layer of oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Working in small batches, dust the calamari pieces (including the tentacles) with the spicy semolina and fry for around 30 seconds on each side. The scored calamari pieces will curl up into tight little cylinders as they cook. When evenly golden and crisp, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  4. Just before you serve, add the lemon juice and salt to the sauce and stir in the coriander. Top with the fried calamari, garnish with pistachio slivers and serve with your choice of rice and plenty of warm flatbread for mopping up the sauce.
Middle Eastern
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