Size Matters!

When it comes to prawns, size, it seems, does matter!

The debate usually starts with the prawn v/s shrimp argument. Here, in India, we call the little ones “shrimp” and the larger ones “prawn”. In the US sea varieties are known as “shrimp” and the river or fresh water varieties as “prawn”. In the UK and Australia its the reverse. All of the above are incorrect!

Prawn V/S Shrimp Comparison Chart
Prawn Shrimp
Zoological Classification Prawns are decapod crustaceans belonging to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata. Shrimp are decapod crustaceans belonging to the sub-order Pleocyemata.
Relative Size Prawns are typically larger than shrimps. Shrimp are generally smaller than prawns.
Gill Structure Prawns have branching gills. Shrimp feature lamellar gills, which are plate-like in structure.
Pincers The second pincers of prawns are larger than the front ones. The front pincers of shrimp are typically the largest.
Leg Structure Prawns have longer legs than shrimp. Also, prawns usually have claws on three pairs of their legs Shrimp have shorter legs and have claws only on two pairs of legs.
Types Indian prawn, Giant river prawn, Tiger prawn White leg shrimp, Atlantic white shrimp, Pink, Dotted and Brown shrimp.
Culinary Since prawns are larger, you get fewer in number per pound, and subsequently priced higher per unit. Also, much as prawns and shrimp are similar in taste, prawns are considered more of a delicacy because of their size. Since shrimp are smaller in size, they get cooked slightly quicker than prawns. Sautéing shrimp for longer might make it rubbery and closer to dry fish. Other than that, they taste very similar to prawns.

In India we call fresh water prawns Scampi. In different parts of the world Scampi means different things. This can be a very long discussion if we go into all the details of nomenclature but, for the sake of this blog, when I say “prawns” I am covering all types of prawn, shrimp and/or scampi.

So why does size matter? Oh for so many reasons. At a very basic level take cooking methods. We’d never put a small on prawn on a barbecue right? We want a nice big juicy prawn on the BBQ, grilling away nicely.

XXL Prawns, Skewered and Grilled

Would you put XXL prawns in a curry, salad or pasta? Cooking method or dish definitely has a big say in the size of prawn to be used.

Small Prawns with Veggies

World over counts are measured in pounds which can make it tricky for most us here, being used to dealing in kilograms. The following explanation is based on kilograms to avoid any confusion.


Prawns have a wide size classification. And, it is based on weight and count not length. So when you ask for 1 Kg of prawns, you are usually more specific than that. You  say 1 Kg, 35 count prawn. This, in practice, will buy you between 31-40 prawns per Kg. Whole prawns mind you – head, shell and all.

TIP: Count always means number per Kg whole prawn.

So when you ask Fishvish for a 35 count prawn you will get 70-80 prawns per Kg because they are already cleaned peeled and deveined and therefore double the number per kilogram once we discard all the wastage.

The reason why there is an incorrect perception that we are expensive is because of this. We deal in product that is 100% usable to you and therefore prefer to sell it that way.


Most companies world wide whether selling fresh frozen or non-frozen prawns have a tendency to label them Small, Medium, Large, etc. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever, we at Fishvish do it too. But it’s important to know what this classification means.

You see, since this is not a nomenclature followed in the institutional and wholesale sectors, there isn’t any global classification standard per se. Most companies are more or less in the same ball park, but everyone has that little streak of individuality that they want to showcase. Here’s a table of prawns sizes by name and count per 1/2 and 1 Kg as categorized by Fishvish.

Peeled Cleaned Deveined Tail-On Prawn
Fishvish Name Size Terminology Prawns per 1/2 Kg Prawns per 1 Kg
Colossal U/5 < 5 < 10
Super Jumbo U/10 < 10 < 20
Jumbo U/12 or 10/12 10-12 20-24
XXXL U/15 or 13/15 13-15 26-30
XXL 16/20 16-20 32-40
XL 21/25 21-26 42-55
Large 26/30 26-32 55-65
Medium 31/40 31-42 70-80

Some similarities may exist with other guys like us but not necessarily be exactly the same.

XXL and bigger are usually used in grilled and barbeque dishes. Pastas and such will use XL and Large and the Mediums are usually used in curries.

We do have a Curry Prawn as well but this is an off-cut so to speak. Broken prawns, ones with tails missing from all sizes go into making this size. Nothing wrong with prawn itself, but cant use a broken prawn on the barbecue can we? But in a curry? Sure.

Prawns in Soup (you can use Curry Prawns from Fishvish)

A new entrant for us is the Small Prawn but with one big difference. These are cleaned and peeled but are NOT deveined. The prawn size is too small to devein. These can be used in curries, fillings, salads and even soups.

Small Prawns in a Salad

Now when you buy prawns the next time around:

  • Know whether you’re getting whole prawns or cleaned peeled prawns – counts per Kg for whole prawns will be half of that cleaned peeled prawns.for the same weight. (Note: when you buy whole prawns, you are only getting 50% usable prawns to take home.)
  • If you know the dish you want to make, you’re already half way there – let the dish decide the size of prawns you buy.
  • Always buy prawns based on number of prawns you get per 1/2 or 1 Kg not on anyones, including Fishvishs’, size nomenclatures.
TIP: The larger the prawn, the lower the count per Kg, the smaller the prawn, the larger the count per Kg. 

Bijal Patel
Co-Founder Fishvish
Hardcore food junkie, 
loves to cook for his wife.

Image Credit: Cover
Image Credit: Grilled Prawns
Image Credit: Vegetables
Image Credit: Soup
Image Credit: Salad

Suggested Reading: Cracking the Code – Your Guide to Cooking Prawns

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