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The shrimp dilemma - do you feel it?


heidih
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I adore shrimp. They are at the top of the list of foods I would miss if I could never have them again. They are also I think at the top of the list of farmed sea creatures.

The best I have locally for general purposes are farmed from Asia. That bothers me. The only truly local shrimp are Santa Barbara spot prawns - a special treat but not something for a shrimp chow down. Recently there have been "wild caught" in the chain markets from India and the Sea of Cortex (Mexico). The taste is pretty decent even though the Indian ones are pre-deveined with the cut down the back which often means mush or no flavor. Trader Joe's often has Argentinian frozen raw peeled & deveined red shrimp which can go from nice to mushy.

How do shrimp lovers get their fix around the world?

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To be honest, I don't cook or eat as much seafood as I probably should or would like to. It's an expense issue, I guess. But that aside. Prawns. Imported, frozen prawns--from China, Vietnam, wherever--are still expensive here, although obviously (well, generally) not as expensive as the local prawns (be they fresh or frozen). I only buy local seafood. Why? The rare time I've thought, hey, a bag of frozen prawns--which generally means imported ones, unless I want to travel specially to find them, which defeats the whole point of a convinience product--would be a nice thing to store in the freezer, I've ended up regretting it. The intent was to use them in paella or curry, say. But after thawing and cooking them, I thought the quality was lacking. The flavour and texture weren't very nice. I ended up feeding them to my stray cats.

But really. Frozen prawns here, even the bad ones from the supermarket's home brand line, are anywhere between $20 and $30 per kilo, which is close enough to $10-15USD/pound to not matter. Unless you're after monster-sized king prawns from somewhere costly like Prahran Market, mostly you'll be paying that--well, maybe just a little more--for the fresh ones. Still farmed, I think. But superior to the frozen imports. And both examples of prawn are too expensive for many Australians to enjoy regular 'shrimp chow downs' or the wildly inaccurate but stereotypical favourite of 'shrimp' (or, you know, prawn) on the barbie. Unless you catch them yourself (which isn't so bad if the water is warm and you're on holiday somewhere coastal) or are quite well-off, I think prawns--especially if you want to have a feast--are by default, no matter the quality or provenance something for special occasions. There are places, here and there--I remember posting some photos of the Springvale shopping centre in my blog thread, and if you're in Melbourne and really want cheap seafood (although you want to know what you're looking for, quality-wise) you could always swing by there or, perhaps, somewhere like Footscray Market--that will sell you prawns, even fresh locals, for a slightly lower price. Slightly. But there's no way to sidestep the expense of prawns here in any meaningful way.

Chris Taylor

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

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I adore shrimp. They are at the top of the list of foods I would miss if I could never have them again. They are also I think at the top of the list of farmed sea creatures.

The best I have locally for general purposes are farmed from Asia. That bothers me.

I have to ask: Why does this bother you, specifically? I am very curious.

For the record, national (Mexican) farmed shrimp do it for me.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I adore shrimp. They are at the top of the list of foods I would miss if I could never have them again. They are also I think at the top of the list of farmed sea creatures.

The best I have locally for general purposes are farmed from Asia. That bothers me. The only truly local shrimp are Santa Barbara spot prawns - a special treat but not something for a shrimp chow down. Recently there have been "wild caught" in the chain markets from India and the Sea of Cortex (Mexico). The taste is pretty decent even though the Indian ones are pre-deveined with the cut down the back which often means mush or no flavor. Trader Joe's often has Argentinian frozen raw peeled & deveined red shrimp which can go from nice to mushy.

How do shrimp lovers get their fix around the world?

Heidi, thanks for raising this topic ! I've wrestled with the same dilemma, and have the same limited options, since I'm in the same general area as you. So far, I've been most pleased (although that is certainly damning with faint praise, as they say....) the frozen ones from the Sea of Cortez, when I can find them. I assiduously avoid any farmed seafood from Asia. Aside from the environmental issues you noted in your later post, I'm not convinced that the food handling in those countries is up to US standards (such as *they* are). I also find that most farmed Asian shrimp contain tetrasodium biphosphate or sodium metasulfite to "plump" them, which leads to watery, rubbery shrimp. Not to mention an off taste I can discern. Sure wish we could get wild Gulf shrimp out here....

--Roberta--

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

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To be honest, I don't cook or eat as much seafood as I probably should or would like to. It's an expense issue, I guess. But that aside. Prawns. Imported, frozen prawns--from China, Vietnam, wherever--are still expensive here, although obviously (well, generally) not as expensive as the local prawns (be they fresh or frozen). I only buy local seafood. Why? The rare time I've thought, hey, a bag of frozen prawns--which generally means imported ones, unless I want to travel specially to find them, which defeats the whole point of a convinience product--would be a nice thing to store in the freezer, I've ended up regretting it. The intent was to use them in paella or curry, say. But after thawing and cooking them, I thought the quality was lacking. The flavour and texture weren't very nice. I ended up feeding them to my stray cats.

Add them frozen right at the end of cooking. The heat will defrost them and the residual heat will cook them through such that they will have good mouth feel and taste. As long as they were flash frozen, you shouldn't have an issue with the quality.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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How do shrimp lovers get their fix around the world?

In the UK they're lucky enough to have cheap scampi (langoustine). It still amazes me that scampi are an expensive luxury in Australia, but in the UK they're considered cheap pub food. I've read some reports that populations off Scotland are booming, there have been attempts by leading chefs to improve the public perception of scampi and increase consumption levels to try and take the pressure off endangered fish species. I don't know why it's a struggle, I'd rather eat scampi than cod any day...

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I had some fresh fried shrimp on a visit to Savannah, GA that was a revelation. Until then, fried shrimp was a non starter for me.These were really the best shrimp I have ever had. In my quest to try and do it myself here at home I have not had much luck. The product that is advertised as Fresh Gulf Shrimp in the flyer also has a much smaller in the store that reads "contains sulfites". I have tried some from Whole Foods that looked beautiful, but dissapointed in flavor. I would also like to try salt and pepper shrimp with the head on, but no luck so far.

HC

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I'm interested in this topic. I typcally buy Wegmans' (our local very good supermarket) frozen farmed tiger shrimp from Vietnam. And I've been for the most part happy with them - they're not mushy, but they can sometimes release more liquid than I'd like when pan frying them... But I'm aware of the environmental issues, and recently I was at another supermarket and bought a bag of frozen wild-caught shrimp from the gulf of mexico. It was strange -- they tasted so different to me -- they tasted like shrimp from shrimp cocktail, where the tiger shrimp I normally get taste like shrimp you'd have in shrimp scampi. Does that make any sense? Anyway, I just really didn't like the wild-caught shrimp taste... And I don't understand if this is just an issue of whatever variety of shrimp lives in the gulf versus is farmed... Are there other wild-caught or domestic shrimp I might buy that don't have that shrimp cocktailness to them?

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I buy fresh local mangrove shrimp from farmers that are doing it sustainably and without too much by way of antibiotics / other nasties, and also farming in such a way that it doesn't affect the mangrove ecosystems. They're of fabulous quality, and I can choose head on or head off (depending on what I'll use them for, and on the size of the shrimp. Some are clearly prawn-sized and those are always head-ons)

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Since I'm in landlocked Oklahoma, I'll eat my Chinese frozen shrimp and like them. We have crawdads here that are like langoustines, but they are not native to my part of the state. Crawdads have become invasive in the UK, as well, all though I am unclear as to whether they are encroaching on local fresh water crustaceans.

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Texas Gulf wild caught. But there is still the issue of bi-catch. I used to get fresh caught from Mazatlan. They were the best.

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Some years ago we vacationed in the odd little town of Everglades City, Florida. I call it odd because it had been laid out to grow to an extent that it never did, so much of the "grid" of city streets was empty. Maybe 500 people live there now. Anyway, the seafood and in particular the shrimp that we ate there were fantastic. I keep fantasizing about moving to Everglades City just to eat the shrimp.

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I love tiny coldwater Maine shrimp in season... and even out of season (frozen and deep fried). That catch may be dwindling as well, it's unclear (see Maine shrimp thread).

For other shrimp dishes requiring larger sizes, I get wild Gulf shrimp at Wild Edibles here in New York. Unpeeled and cleaned, it's in the $20/lb range. I have to admit that shrimp looking exactly the same in Chinatown at $7/lb are pretty close in quality, maybe better sometimes. I'm presuming those are farmed, maybe from Louisiana.

Edited by patrickamory (log)
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I feel so blessed! We love shrimp and eat a lot of them. I won't buy farmed shrimp and vary rarely even previously frozen. Sometimes, when we go to the beach, I load up with head-on fresh shrimp and freeze them at home. But I usually just go to our local market and get what I need on the day.

Yesterday, I bought a pound of 21-25 fresh white shrimp for ~ $10. Might've been $12. I know they were still swimming in the Gulf the day before. Publix has previously frozen, wild caught smaller ones for $6.99 this week.

I'm now kicking myself for having not bought some of the beautiful whole trigger fish they had on ice yesterday. It's one of my favorites and not always available.

We are certainly spoiled by access to wonderful, fresh seafood! I wanted to scream yesterday, when the lady in front of me bought one frozen cold-water lobster tail and one farmed rainbow trout. To each his own, I guess...

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You may remember these posts of prawns (shrimp) from my eGullet foodblog. We don't have a shortage of availability nor quality. They are expensive but worth it.

On the other hand, if I want to add shelled prawns to a dish, I often use flash frozen prawns as I did last night in a prawn and chorizo paella. They were added at the end of cooking when the dish was resting and by the time the dish was served they were both thawed and cooked through. If they are thawed and/or added earlier, they are particularly unappealing.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I love tiny coldwater Maine shrimp in season... and even out of season (frozen and deep fried). That catch may be dwindling as well, it's unclear (see Maine shrimp thread).

There is evidence that Gulf of Maine shrimp biomass measurement is all screwed up. Survey data from one scientific study is way off of another one, then the shrimpers are saying the biomass seems on schedule in it's 11 or so-year cycle. It's been called one of the few dependable sustainable fisheries out there.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

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I buy local, wild-caught Gulf shrimp...ONLY. No pond-raised (yukky stuff added to the ponds, plus habitat destruction), absolutely POSITIVELY no imports (foreign, cut-price dumping of shrimp on the US market is undercutting the domestic fishery), and never frozen (by someone else) if I can get my hands on fresh. (Though I do fill my freezer during the May brown shrimp season, 'cause I think they're most flavorful.)

Why? Because I live smack in the middle of Louisiana's seafood producing parishes. It makes me very sad to walk into my local WalMart and see big IQF bags of dirt-cheap, imported shrimp when the local fisherman is getting less than $3-4/lb wholesale for gorgeous shrimp. If you want to learn more about the seafood industry in my corner of LA, check out the Southern Foodways Alliance's oral history project focusing on Bayou Lafourche: http://www.southernfoodways.org/documentary/oh/bayou/

Ask for wild-caught Gulf shrimp....your purchase matters to a whole bunch of fellow Americans.

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Oh yea, I never eat "dirt-cheap, imported shrimp......" but you will buy imported extra virgin olive oil of questionable content and origin ignoring the US produced. There's a bunch of American farmers your purchase also matters to. Kindly, An American farmer.

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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Oh yea, I never eat "dirt-cheap, imported shrimp......" but you will buy imported extra virgin olive oil of questionable content and origin ignoring the US produced. There's a bunch of American farmers your purchase also matters to. Kindly, An American farmer.

We're singing the same tune: my olive oil is from California ( http://www.californiaoliveranch.com/ ), my wheat flour from Kansas, and my sugar, rice, & citrus are all from within the state line.

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I only wish more folks took a vested interest in where their products come from. I also buy as local as possible with occasional other products that are unavailable, like that single malt scotch I enjoy. California Olive Ranch is the largest producer, in the US, of EVOO and a well run enterprise.

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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