Shrimp VS Prawns VS Scampi

A rose is a rose but is a shrimp a shrimp? A prawn a prawn? And what exactly is scampi?

Here in the U.S. most people call small and medium shrimp, “shrimp” and refer to the larger, jumbo variety as “prawns” or even “scampi.” But many purists insist, the term “prawn” should only be used when referencing the Dublin Bay Prawn, also known as langoustine. However, the species isn’t found in Dublin Bay, rather, they live off Ireland’s west coast, as well as the Irish and Celtic seas.

Unlike shrimp, langoustine have pincer claws—similar to lobster only much smaller—and are almost always cooked in their shells with heads intact. Stateside, they’re rarely found in grocery stores or even specialty fish markets, but they are served in a few upscale restaurants.

So what is the ever-popular dish “shrimp scampi”? Depending on where you are, “shrimp scampi” could be considered a redundancy as it’s a bit like ordering “chai tea” as the word “chai” means tea in Indian. But to each their own. Because as a rose is still a rose by any other name, shrimp scampi, is still delicious no matter if it’s being made with shrimp or prawns … just make sure you do everything possible to buy shrimp from a reputable, U.S. wild-caught source!

Here in the U.S. shrimp are the most consumed type of seafood and nearly 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in America are imported. 

IMPORTED, FARMED SHRIMP CAN BE 10 TIMES WORSE FOR THE CLIMATE THAN BEEF ~ SOURCE OCEANA.ORG

SHRIMP not shrimps, not ever—the word “shrimp” itself is both singular and plural so please, don’t ever say “shrimps.” (Lucky you, you get to learn about crustaceans and have a grammar lesson too!) Moving on, there are hundreds of different species of shrimp, both saltwater and freshwater. But the most common varieties throughout the U.S.—ordered in restaurants and cooked at home—are Gulf, rock, pink, black tiger, and Pacific white.

  • Gulf shrimp are found up and down the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, to southern Florida, to the Yucatan. Gulf shrimp are not farmed (yet) and can be nearly 10 inches in length from tail to head. There are brown, pink and white Gulf shrimp.
  • Rock shrimp are much smaller than Gulf shrimp and are best suited for adding to dishes rather than on their own. Great for salads, to top off pizzas, or tossed into pasta.
  • Pink shrimp are found in the north Atlantic, the north Pacific, and in many other waters throughout the continent. Pink shrimp are about half the size of Gulf shrimp and like rock shrimp, are best suited for add ons rather than a main course.
  • Tiger shrimp, aka giant tiger prawns, are the largest of the species and are excellent grilled. Most of the tigers you see in the U.S. (restaurants and grocery stores) come from Asia.
  • Pacific white shrimp are excellent in shrimp cocktail, or cooked “peel and eat” style. Most everyone who’s ever had shrimp, have eaten this variety as it is the most widely harvested variety in the world.
  • Pacific white shrimp are excellent in shrimp cocktail, or cooked “peel and eat” style. Most everyone who’s ever had shrimp, have eaten this variety as it is the most widely harvested variety in the world.

Peel-and-eat shrimp are not deveined as the shell isn’t removed until you peel it off.

A word on deveining

What about those veins that run up and down the shrimp … so yea, some people don’t care. And that’s fine. And many loyal shrimpers say that removing the “vein” isn’t necessary but me, I have to remove both the underside (which is part of the nervous system) and the top (which is the digestive tract). In smaller shrimp, typically people leave the “veins” in because they’re far less noticeable. But in bigger shrimp, though it is more of an aesthetic thing and really not necessary, most people want it removed because, well, it’s waste (insert poop emoji). As for flavor, some say when left in, it gives the shrimp a grittier texture and a slight muddy flavor … I really can’t say for sure. All I know is ever since I left my mermaid tail behind and became a real person, I have to have both of them removed. LOL.

On Being a Flexitarian

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