Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Do You Eat Shrimp Heads, Body Shells & Tails?


  • Please log in to reply
33 replies to this topic

#1 Chris Hennes

Chris Hennes

    Director of Operations

  • manager
  • 8,161 posts
  • Location:Norman, Oklahoma

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?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org


#2 Mjx

Mjx
  • manager
  • 6,386 posts

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.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org


#3 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,627 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

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.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#4 heidih

heidih
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 10,826 posts
  • Location:Los Angeles

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

liuzhou
  • participating member
  • 2,184 posts
  • Location:Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

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

feedmec00kies
  • participating member
  • 461 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

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.
"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."
- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

#7 Simon_S

Simon_S
  • participating member
  • 689 posts
  • Location:Dublin, Ireland

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

onrushpam
  • participating member
  • 336 posts
  • Location:The Deepest South

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

eternal
  • participating member
  • 282 posts

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

emilyr
  • participating member
  • 500 posts
  • Location:Moberly/Columbia, MO

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.
"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

#11 ScottyBoy

ScottyBoy
  • society donor
  • 1,254 posts
  • Location:United States

Posted 17 January 2011 - 11:36 AM

If it's fried and the shell is crunchy, yup.
Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...
Oakland, CA
My Place
My eGullet Foodblog
eG Ethics Signatory

#12 Anna N

Anna N
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 6,460 posts
  • Location:Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Posted 17 January 2011 - 12:05 PM

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

Same here - they are delicious!
Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

"It either works fine or not, but what the heck. This is bread, not birth control." Susan of Wild Yeast blog
Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog
My 2004 eG Blog

#13 xxchef

xxchef
  • participating member
  • 248 posts
  • Location:Northern Arizona

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.
The Big Cheese
BlackMesaRanch.com
My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"
BMR on FaceBook
"The Flavor of the White Mountains"

#14 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,412 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

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.

#15 toolprincess

toolprincess
  • participating member
  • 291 posts

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

annachan
  • participating member
  • 1,137 posts
  • Location:Melbourne, Australia

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

heidih
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 10,826 posts
  • Location:Los Angeles

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

janeer
  • participating member
  • 1,255 posts

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

Foodietopo
  • participating member
  • 108 posts
  • Location:Japan

Posted 17 January 2011 - 07:32 PM

If deep fried, it's fine.
My blog about food in Japan
Foodie Topography
www.foodietopography.com

#20 Pierogi

Pierogi
  • participating member
  • 1,476 posts
  • Location:Long Beach, CA

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.
--Roberta--
"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley
Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

#21 KatieLoeb

KatieLoeb
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,156 posts
  • Location:Philadelphia

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:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol


#22 ChrisTaylor

ChrisTaylor
  • host
  • 2,113 posts
  • Location:Melbourne

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.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#23 nickrey

nickrey
  • society donor
  • 2,254 posts
  • Location:Sydney, Australia

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.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#24 PopsicleToze

PopsicleToze
  • participating member
  • 944 posts

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.

Rhonda

#25 patti

patti
  • participating member
  • 616 posts
  • Location:Louisiana

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).
"I like 'em french fried pertaters." (Billy Bob Thornton as Karl, in Sling Blade.)

#26 MelissaH

MelissaH
  • participating member
  • 1,406 posts
  • Location:Central New York via NEO, CO, Pittsburgh

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:

No.

MelissaH
MelissaH
Oswego, NY
Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

#27 Ader1

Ader1
  • participating member
  • 148 posts

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

LuckyGirl
  • participating member
  • 297 posts
  • Location:Greater Cleveland

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

heidih
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 10,826 posts
  • Location:Los Angeles

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

nakji
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,659 posts
  • Location:Shanghai

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.