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Do You Eat Shrimp Heads, Body Shells & Tails?

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#1 Chris Hennes

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:30 AM

Over in this topic we are discussing NYC restaurant annoyances, and LPShanet commented on the practice of leaving the last bit of shell and tail on shrimp when serving them, particularly in a fine-dining setting. It came up that in some cultures the tail portion actually gets eaten, rather than what I think of as the typical behavior here in the US of cutting them off and leaving them on the edge of your plate (or even in a non-fine-dining setting, picking them up and squeezing the tail to get that last shrimp segment, but still leaving the last bit of shell and tail behind).

So, do you eat the tail? Why or why not?

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#2 Mjx

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:34 AM

I do press the meat out of the tail end, but don't eat the shell; I don't know whether the shrimp I've eaten have simply had remarkably robust shells or something, but a tentative nibble has always made it quite clear that my teeth are just not going to break down the chitin well enough for it to be pleasant to swallow... so I pass on that.

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#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:37 AM

Steamed, not usually. But fried, I'll eat the whole thing, including head and tail. Only one in the family who does this, so I usually get a pile of extra tails.
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#4 heidih

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:39 AM

It depends on the preparation. If the tail is crispy as in a grilled or fried dish I enjoy it. Generally if the shrimp has just been boiled, steamed or quickly sauted I leave it after getting the last bit of meat out.

#5 liuzhou

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:40 AM

Sure! The tails are the handles, but I make sure to squeeze every bit of tastiness out before discarding. That said, the heads are the most delicious.

#6 feedmec00kies

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:51 AM

Like most people, I will eat them when fried (especially as the cooking process helps to break down the tough proteins in the shell and makes it easier to consume them), but I don't (or don't always) eat the tails if prepared other ways because the shell is too tough in those contexts.
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#7 Simon_S

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 10:06 AM

I really prefer not to be served prawns with tails still on, but sheer laziness has recently persuaded me to eat them when they're there.

#8 onrushpam

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 10:44 AM

Years ago, I competed in obedience trials with my dogs. They all loved fish/seafood. When travelling for trials, I'd order shrimp for dinner, discreetly wrap the tails in my napkin and take them back to the hotel. Back in the room, I'd play a little game of "find it" with whichever dog was competing that weekend. I'd hide a shrimp tail under the nightstand, or bathmat, let doggie smell my fingers, and say "Find It!" They had great fun searching out the tasty bites. :laugh: I always made sure there were no leftovers-left-behind, but that was rarely a worry.

#9 eternal

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:20 AM

Generally in asian places were they are fried and not gigantic, i eat them. I used to hate that a few years ago but some time in China changed my opinion.

#10 emilyr

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:25 AM

I was eating at a new Japanese restaurant Friday and had some soba soup with some really great tempura to go with it. I made a comment to the waitress that I wished the shrimp tails were more edible because I really wanted the last of that crispy batter. She looked at me funny and told me to put them in the soup and eat them. They turned out great. A little chitinous, but overall great. I've always avoided tails before, but maybe I won't on fried shrimp in the future.

This does make me wonder about another dish at a Chinese restaurant in my hometown. They remove the legs from and devein the shrimp, but then leave the shells on and flour (cornstarch?) it. Then it's flash fried in peanut oil with lots of garlic, salt and pepper. I always thought it was weird that the seasonings all went on on top of the shells. Was I supposed to be eating them whole this whole time? The waitstaff never mentioned anything. I usually peeled the shells and ate the shrimp, licking my fingers to get all the great seasonings.
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#11 ScottyBoy

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:36 AM

If it's fried and the shell is crunchy, yup.
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#12 Anna N

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 12:05 PM

If it's fried and the shell is crunchy, yup.

Same here - they are delicious!
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#13 xxchef

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 01:04 PM

Fried crispy: eat it all. Otherwise, I don't care for the shell but find that if cooked properly, the meat pulls cleanly and easily out of that little bit of tail shell. Even those tiny meat tail "feathers" will pull out, and are worth eating. Unfortunately it's not exactly easy to do at the table with any style or grace.

I guess I figure if the kitchen has left the tail shell on, regardless of the type of restaurant, it's OK to do what is necessary to get all the meat. It would be a shame not to.
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#14 Jaymes

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 01:31 PM

I have a friend that loves eating those tails with fried shrimp. I tried it once, just because she insisted.

To me, it was just as though I fear it might if I were eating a cockroach.

I didn't like it.
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#15 toolprincess

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 02:58 PM

I heard a few years ago about eating the shrimp tails. I tried it but as Jaymes said it was too chitinous for me. Much the same as when I ate a chocolate covered grasshopper and ended up with "wingy" stuff in my mouth still after all the chocolate melted away.

#16 annachan

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 04:53 PM

Like others have said, I eat them if they're fried crispy. Heck, I eat some of the shells as well if they're crispy.

#17 heidih

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 05:42 PM

Like others have said, I eat them if they're fried crispy. Heck, I eat some of the shells as well if they're crispy.

Oh yes- there is a cheap steam table combo Chinese place here that does fried whole in the shell with heads on shrimp. Like those chips that you can't eat just one of.

#18 janeer

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 07:27 PM

No, don't eat them. But want them on. Don't ask me why. Looks? Completeness?

#19 Foodietopo

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 07:32 PM

If deep fried, it's fine.
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#20 Pierogi

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 09:50 PM

Traditionally, New Orleans "Barbeque" shrimp, which isn't barbequed at all, but oven-braised (or stove-top braised) in a butter/garlic/lemon/Tabasco/Worcestershire sauce broth, is served with heads/shells on. You eat it all, and sop up the broth with crusty bread.

*YOU* may do that. *I* make my New Orleans Barbeque shrimp with shelled, tail-on, shrimp, from which I extract the last little morsel of tail meat, and leave the spent shell on my side plate.

I still sop up the broth with crusty bread, though.
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#21 KatieLoeb

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:06 PM

Am I the only one that finds the texture of shrimp shells/tails to be what I imagine eating plastic would be like? :unsure:

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#22 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 01:35 AM

Depending on how they prawns are cooked, the tails aren't a huge problem for me. A bowl of small deep-fried prawns is nice, eaten whole, but I have a problem with the heads. They taste nice but the mouthfeel--all those sharp bits--really doesn't do it for me. Feels like something I shouldn't be eating. As the prawns get bigger the mouthfeel of the head gets more offensive.

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#23 nickrey

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 03:01 AM

I'm with most everyone else. Fried prawn shells are crunchy and delicious.

They tend to be a bit chewy and get stuck in your teeth if they're boiled or otherwise prepared.

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#24 PopsicleToze

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 10:09 AM

Fried, crispy tails -- eat everything -- if head is fried, that's fair game, too!

About the New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp, I lived in New Orleans for over 20 years and never saw anyone eating the heads or tails. That may be just me, because it's mostly a dish served at home. I have eaten them at Mr. B's, too, and still didn't see anyone eating the heads. But to each his own. It wouldn't hurt anyone to eat them.


#25 patti

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 11:09 AM

I don't understand serving shrimp with their "pants" on, particularly in a salad. I want every morsel of shrimp, dammit! I confess I have eaten the tail of fried shrimp, but it depends on the company and the place. If I'm cooking shrimp, you can bet I peel them completely before cooking and serving (unless they're boiled or barbecued, then it's every man for himself).
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#26 MelissaH

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 01:11 PM

Am I the only one that finds the texture of shrimp shells/tails to be what I imagine eating plastic would be like? :unsure:


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#27 Ader1

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 01:30 PM

I used to live in Thailand and often ate Tom Yum Gung (Prawn). I left the tails on the side of the plate. Then a mate said to me that his friend's wife ate the lot. From then on I did too. Never looked back.

#28 LuckyGirl

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 03:25 PM

Add me to the list of those who eat the tails when the shrimp has been fried, grilled also works. I actually like the tails.

#29 heidih

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 03:26 PM

I want to try this dish. In such a preparation do you think you would pull the meat out and suck out all the juices and bits from the shell and discard or?

#30 nakji

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 03:50 PM

I used to pull everything off - the head, the tail, etc. But since no one else around me was, I felt awkward, and just started eating them whole. I wouldn't say I enjoy it, but I'm getting used to it.