To De-vein Or Not To De-vein

It’s a question that is probably discussed to death pretty much all over the shrimp eating world. The opinion is evenly divided for both points of view. Most frozen shrimp / prawn is usually head and shell off with the tail left on and usually “de-veined”. If the shrimp / prawn is head-on shell on, then more often than not, the “vein” would still be in there. This “vein” that we are talking about it is one that runs along top of the shrimp / prawn.
What is strange and NOT discussed that often is whether or not to “de-vein” the one on the underside of the shrimp / prawn. This is almost always left in. No matter where live you on the planet.
Why this dichotomy? Well the simple answer is – it doesn’t have a gritty mouth feel like the “vein” on the top side of the shrimp / prawn. The more detailed answer what this post is about.
The top “vein” is actually the Alimentary Canal or intestine that runs along the top of the shrimp, from the mouth of the shrimp all the way down to the tail (where the “bum” is located). On the dorsal side of this “vein” runs the Supra-Intestinal Artery supplying blood (a translucent color so we actually never really see the artery) to the intestine and the abdominal muscles. These are both removed together – they are pretty much stuck to one another so when one is removed the other comes with it.
Anatomy of a Crustacean
Given the shrimps’ method of eating, a lot sand (if sea catch) or mud (if pond catch) goes in with the food. Some of it gets flushed, some of it just sits there in the intestine when the shrimp is caught or harvested. Some poop might be left in as well. The sand/mud is what gives us a gritty mouth feel and the poop can add a slightly bitter after-taste to food. So the two main reasons for removing these are really just that – we DO NOT wanna eat poop and the sand/mud texture in the mouth is terrible. Also, leaving the “vein” in increases the risk of the shrimp going bad faster as poop will decay quicker.
These are too small to “devein”.

It’s important to note here that only 50% of the people actually remove this! The shrimp is eaten as is! I have personally eaten shrimp both ways and maybe I’ve been lucky, but I have not been able to tell the difference. Do I “devein” shrimp when I cook? Yes, I remove the intestine every time IF its possible i.e. the size of the shrimp has to be large enough to do that. I mean if I’m making a Prawn Fried Rice and using tiny shrimp (100-200 per kg) there is no way I am going to sit and spend hours doing this delicate procedure when I can barely hold on to the little fellas! I mean really, it’s hard enough to get them outta their shells!

That brings us to the bottom “vein”. 
  • Its NOT a vein
  • Its NOT an artery
  • Its NOT part of the digestive tract
  • Its NOT cartilage 
What the devil is it then? 
Its the Central Nervous System of the shrimp – the main nerve cord! 
It runs along the dorsal or underside of the shrimp. Unlike most mammals, shrimp / prawns do not have a spine to protect the central nerve. The shell and legs perform that function.
Nowhere in the world will frozen shrimp that is labelled “de-veined” ever have this removed. In India, even our local fishmonger never removes this until specifically asked to and then too she/he will probably make a fuss about it. I have never ever removed and I do not personally know any one, in my circle of friends and family, who remove it. Why?
  1. It does NOT contain poop
  2. It does NOT contain blood
  3. It does NOT have any sand/mud in it and therefore NO gritty mouth feel.
Peeled & Deveined Prawns from Fishvish

With the shrimp / prawns Fishvish sells, the top “vein” is always removed. The bottom never removed. This is a process followed by every shrimp processing factory in the world! We source all our products from such export factories and they all follow mandated processes that are certified by not only India’s FDA but also USFDA, EU FDA, Australia FDA and Japan’s equivalent to the FDA.

Deveining the bottom vein.

In closing, I’d like to say that, yes, the top “vein”, at least India, is usually removed by the overwhelming majority. The bottom one – almost always NEVER removed. It’s pretty much cosmetic anyway and I haven’t seen even high end, fine dine restaurants remove this bottom “vein” either. Still, its a personal choice and those that like to remove it, it’s simple enough – make a shallow cut along the bottom length and use a toothpick or the pointy end of a knife to pull the “vein” out. Just be careful, it’s delicate and will break easily. 

Don’t let something that’s so trivial stop you from enjoying your shrimp / prawns. Even if you’re not buying them from Fishvish!

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

5 Thoughts to “To De-vein Or Not To De-vein”

  1. john zekas

    I think the underside of the shrimp might be the ventral side. Isn’t dorsal side where the digestive track runs?

    1. Bijal Patel

      You’re absolutely right John, it is the ventral side and the dorsal side i.e. the “upper side” is where the digestive track is.

  2. Kyle

    Thanks for the great article! I made a shrimp scampi with spaghetti squash the other night and removed the bottom vein (for the first time) purely for aesthetic purposes (I didn’t really know what it was and to be honest, had never even really noticed it before this batch of shrimp). Google brought me here to learn about it. Cheers!

    1. Bijal Patel

      Thank you so much Kyle.

    2. Kalpanee Gunawardana


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