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
Prawns are decapod crustaceans belonging to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata.
Shrimp are decapod crustaceans belonging to the sub-order Pleocyemata.
Prawns are typically larger than shrimps.
Shrimp are generally smaller than prawns.
Prawns have branching gills.
Shrimp feature lamellar gills, which are plate-like in structure.
The second pincers of prawns are larger than the front ones.
The front pincers of shrimp are typically the largest.
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.
Indian prawn, Giant river prawn, Tiger prawn
White leg shrimp, Atlantic white shrimp, Pink, Dotted and Brown shrimp.
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
Prawns per 1/2 Kg
Prawns per 1 Kg
U/12 or 10/12
U/15 or 13/15
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.
I had my first taste of New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp on my last night in the city, at a small restaurant on the famous (or infamous, depending on what you’ve heard) Bourbon Street. We entered the restaurant on an impulse, not having heard much of it earlier; I was still hungry after going through a pound of boiled crawfish at a seafood place even the locals of a seafood-deluged city swear by, since our waitress didn’t remind us about the kitchen closing. I wanted to sample more of this iconic eatery’s review site̶ and Insta-worthy offerings, but since we were leaving in the wee hours of the next morning, I felt like Fate had deprived me of my last chance at legendary food in the Big Easy. I wanted more, and here I was surrounded by restaurants closing at the late hour.
We walked along, when I chanced upon this restaurant I had passed by earlier. The menu was displayed at the door, and it had a smattering of small plates of local plates, which is just what I would’ve sold my soul for, at that moment. One of the restaurant staff posted at the door asked if we were looking at something particularly. I narrated my tale of woe and he nodded in sympathetic understanding—he must see grieving, hungry patrons all the time, I guess. I jabbed my finger at the New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp, that the menu described as being in a lemon butter sauce, served with crusty bread. I asked if this were any good (I do this most times in a new place, even if my friends laugh about it; which server would run down a dish on her employer’s menu, right? But most of the times, I get pointed to better stuff, usually under the guise of “Or you could try…”). On hearing “Oh, it’s very good”, and because we had the luxury of choosing from a lot of places open then, we walked in, and were shown to a table right in the middle of the place. There were other diners around, some of whom looked like locals, so it didn’t feel like a complete tourist trap. We ordered our drinks and the aforementioned small plate.
What was placed on the table made me do a double take. Here I was, expecting barbecued shrimp in a light sauce (see the mention of lemon butter above), and all I could see was head-on shrimp cooked in a dark sauce. My heart sank; did I just order a plateful of cloying BBQ sauce with some prawns and bread to dunk that in, for my last meal in NOLA? I asked the server if this is how New Orleans-style shrimp was supposed to be; I was assured I had received the right dish. With a this-is-all-there-is nonchalance I found hard to feign, I picked a bit of the bread and dipped it into the sauce and popped it into my mouth. What I tasted is something I’m not going to forget so easily. Deep, dark sauce with lots of black pepper, and a slight herby undertone, in a slick-smooth base. The tangy punch hit right after your throat had taken in the savoury satin. My first thought was: okay, this is NO BBQ sauce. My second may have been: should I move to New Orleans for good, and eat this BBQ shrimp for the rest of my life?
As I type this, back in the comfort (and dullness) of my own home, the small plate of wonderment from Olde N’awlins Cookery appears far away, especially since the chef turned down my request to share the recipe, saying it was from the owner’s family; all he would let on was it had lots of margarine, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and rosemary. Since the Internet has to be a saviour in almost all the times you need rescuing from your predicaments, this case was going to be another cliché. I found a hundred, may be more or perhaps less, recipes that were all about the dark, peppery, lemony flavours of what I discovered to be a very popular dish. (Blame my lack of pre-travel research; this trip, like all great trips, was a last-minute plan.) Chef Derrick, this is my version of your ‘secret’ recipe, as good as the one you didn’t give away.
A few notes, before we plunge headlong into tangy, savoury darkness:
Feel free to use butter instead of margarine, lashings of it. This is to be scrimped on at your own peril (and that of destroying a legendary dish).
It’s always head-on jumbo shrimp in NOLA BBQ; but if you’re a landlocked survivor like me, you could also use a shelled version, like this one.
This is served with a French bread, but feel free to try slices of lightly toasted jumbo pav.
You can add a side of sweet corn, onion, tomato and coriander salad, dressed with lemon and olive oil. A few cold beers are a given.
New Orleans-style Barbeque Shrimp Recipe:
½ kg of jumbo shrimp
5 tblsp unsalted butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp onion powder
¾ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp paprika (or use ground Kashmiri peppers)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp hot sauce
¼ cup beer
2 tsp lemon (or lime) juice
Salt to taste
Combine the onion powder, rosemary, paprika, pepper, cumin, and a bit of salt in a bowl. Combine the sauces, beer, and lemon or lime juice in another.
Place a skillet on high heat; when heated through, add the butter and swirl it around.
Add the minced garlic and the shrimp; reduce heat to medium and stir for about 30 seconds, then mix in the dried seasoning mix. Cook for a minute, then add the sauce mix. Swirl through until the broth starts to simmer, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and check for seasoning.
Serve immediately with toasted bread and salad.
About the Author An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
Now that you know the name origins of your fav varieties of seafood, it’s time to get your hands dirty and cook up these stunners of the culinary world—the international marine marvels that make the heart of every global gastronome beat harder. These should be on your list of foods-you–eat-to-make-life-worth-living (you have a list like this, right?). Because you may need to be lucky to find places around that serves fairly true-to-form versions, you should aim to take matters into your own hands and go out into the world your kitchen and conquer. Of course, to source great aquatic produce, you know where to look.
Here they are then, in no specific order. Roll up your sleeves, tie a napkin around your neck before the drooling begins, and tuck in.
1) Fish and Chips:
A British staple, this may be a fairly simple one to prepare, but, as any Brit will tell you, this “glory of English gastronomy” tastes different at each fish-and-chip shop that dot the expanse of the United Kingdom. Some places experiment with the beer element; ales, lagers, stouts etc. each produce a different result, although adding club soda works too. Typically served with malt vinegar, lemon or tartar sauce, this easy-to-adapt recipe has a different form in each of the countries it can be found in on the plates of diners happily noshing. But the traditional UK-style of doing it is, well, brill.
Crab on its own is such a delight to devour—sweet, delicate meat that takes on the zest of the accompanying cast in a dish. The Chili Crab from Singapore is spicy, sweet and even more of a delight, if such a thing is possible. No wonder then, it’s the national dish of the country, and is listed as one of the world’s 50 most delicious foods. Mantous or Chinese steamed buns are a general accompaniment.
Fresh, gorgeous produce is the cornerstone of Thai cooking. Thai fish cakes reflect the best of nature’s plenitude that is generously bestowed on this beautiful country. Assorted fresh catch from the waters that surround the country unites with the herbs, spice, chilli, tang that is the hallmark of the cuisine. The result is one (tasty) successful, everlasting marriage.
While the fish in banana leaves tale may remind you of the various versions found in our nation’s regions, Ikan Pepesan Bali or Balinese Grilled Fish is a different story altogether. A furiously fragrant paste redolent with lemongrass and other aromatics, chilli, spices and tamarind or carambola for tartness is smeared over whole scored fish, which is then traditionally grilled over coconut coals. Of course, sitting on the beach watching the waves hit the shore would a perfect backdrop, but a barbeque night at home is pretty great too.
Regarded as an Italian-American collaboration, this stew that has shellfish of all kinds and other fish packed in a bright tomato and wine sauce. It may sound deceptively simple, but the full-blown yet subtle flavours return to haunt you when all you want is silky seafood comfort in a bowl. This pairs well with a hunk of crusty bread for a complete meal. A glass of wine only makes it better.
Smothered or suffocated are not words you would want to associate with your seafood, but etouffée literally means that. What it really involves is browning ingredients like onions and peppers with a roux and braising them with Creole or Cajun seasoning to create this New Orleans hit. Some butter and tomatoes help to round out the flavours. Shrimp etouffée can be had by itself, or over white rice with some garlic bread. Although traditionally made with crayfish, the shrimp version is equally popular. And not because it sounds like ‘toffee’.
A French classic that was adored even by the celebrated Julia Child, this was named after a popular play the subject of which was the French Revolution. A traditional thermidor is not an easy recipe, and like most things French, involves incredible amounts of butter, cheese and cream, and eggs and cognac. Reserved for special occasions, this dish is a reminder of why the best things in life are so tasty, and so loaded. Feel free to reserve this one for the weekend, when the world can go by more slowly.
Fresh crab, spices, coconut milk—there’s a recipe right there. Of course there’s more to this dish that comes from Jamaica, where they love their curry, which was introduced in the 17th century by Indian slaves who were brought in by the British. A little bit of thyme adds that Caribbean touch, while ginger and tomatoes add a burst of freshness. Some recipes do mix prawns along with the crab, which only adds to the fun. Serve with rotis or naans, or with that eternal soul mate of curry, rice.
Beat it meatballs; there’s no place for you around with these lovely stewed fish balls. The stew (also called also called soupe de boulette de poisson) comprises of tomatoes simmered with vegetables like carrots and potatoes, while the fish balls are put together with fish, flavourings with the notable addition of peanut butter. This can be served with a side of bread, rice, couscous or yams.
This dish, called Karei no Nitsuke in Japanese, can be made with halibut if flounder (karei) is not available. Nitsuke refers to the simmering technique which thickens the sauce made with soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and sometimes, ginger. The fish, by way of rapid simmering, is infused with the broth flavourings and is covered for a bit. The result is a glazed fillet with a golden sauce, which is traditionally served with rice.
You’d probably want to add these to your cooking schedule for the week, so putting some of these together is a breeze on weekdays and nights. Nothing better than looking forward to a great meal to put it in perspective, eh? All hail the home cook.
About the Author An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
In this blog post, we’ll take a close look at some of the false concepts floating around (pun intended) about seafood. We’ll see whether these notions are purely fictitious or if they have an element of truth in them.
Myth 1 – DAIRY
Much A Moo About Nothing
In our culture, the most common myth that’s persisted for far too long is that seafood and dairy can’t be consumed together. There has been no scientific evidence or study that proves this theory however many people believe this to be true. It’s a myth that extends to other milk-based products such as yogurt and cheese. And, the myth gets very specific mentioning that combining dairy with fish gives one skin ailments.
Seafood and milk, a toxic combination.
An unfounded myth. Many traditional seafood dishes have a cream-base for which milk is used:
This British classic recipe involves poaching fish like cod, salmon, and haddock or halibut in milk. The subtle sweetness of the milk adds richness to this classic comfort food.
Passion is French for fish. Some versions of this French recipe dip the fish in milk, to help with the browning, before rolling it in flour.
Seafood and yogurt, a toxic combination.
An extension of the milk and seafood myth. Many popular Indian recipes are testament to the fact that not only is this belief untrue but also that these two make for a delicious combination.
Yogurt-based curries and marinades
There are countless recipes in India that use yogurt for marinating the fish. Yogurt adds a tang to balance the spices used for flavouring a dish. The subcontinent’s favourite appetiser, the fish tikka, is such a hit due to the contrasting flavours of the yogurt marinade’s subtle sourness with the spicy, smoky-ness of the tikkas. Bengali doi maach, cooked in a yogurt-based gravy, also captures well this interplay of flavours between spices, mustard oil, and yogurt.
Unless, you’re lactose intolerant or you have a seafood allergy, there’s no cause for you to be concerned while having seafood and dairy together. Especially since there’s no scientific proof of that supports this urban legend. Just be mindful that both these foods are perishable, hence, buying unadulterated, fresh produce from a trusted source is of prime importance. Of course, it is still a matter of taste, you may or may not like to combine these two foods depending in whether the interplay of flavours appeals to you or not. However, it would be taking it too far to actually believe that the two are a poisonous combination.
Good things can happen when fish and dairy come together. Don’t miss out on such experiences simply due to some old wives’ tales.
Myth 2 – SEAFOOD SMELL
Nothing fishy about it!
Fresh seafood doesn’t have a strong smell
A common misunderstanding is that all seafood has a strong odour. Well, fresh fish usually only has a mild smell. Once it is out of water, if the prescribed quick freezing process is not followed to preserve the freshness of the catch then it begins to decompose pretty quickly, emitting a foul odour.
The Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, states, “Fish begins to spoil immediately after being removed from the water. This is reflected in gradual developments of undesirable flavours, softening of the flesh and eventually substantial losses of fluid containing protein and fat. By lowering the temperature of the fish, spoilage can be retarded and, if the temperature is kept low enough, spoilage can be almost stopped.” They further mention, “The freezing process alone is not a method of preservation. It is merely the means of preparing the fish for storage at a suitably low temperature. In order to produce a good product, freezing must be accomplished quickly. A freezer requires to be specially designed for this purpose and thus freezing is a separate process from low temperature storage.” Read more here
So, how a fish is handled, what process is followed for maintaining its freshness, and whether the right equipment is used for all of this plays a big role in how it smells. Basically, this belief that seafood in general has a ‘fishy’ smell is false. This myth probably came to be due to the fact that proper procedures for preservation of seafood are not necessarily followed by all hence it is more than likely that most people would’ve experienced this rancid smell, one time or the other at the fish market, when the fish on sale has begun to rot.
However, it is important to make the distinction between the smell of fresh seafood vs that which has begun to deteriorate in quality; fresh raw produce only has a faint smell, it does not have a ‘fishy smell’.
So, seafood that smells fine is good for consumption.
Although smell is an indicator of freshness, it is not the only indicator. Hence, if a fish smells fine it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fresh. In addition to the smell, the texture and colour also need to be taken into consideration. There multiple indicators of freshness and you should be mindful of all of them when you’re buying fish. Here’s some quick tips to help you with the signs you should look for when assessing the quality of seafood.
Myth 3 – SEAFOOD RAISES BLOOD CHOLESTEROL
The long and short of it
The fact of the matter is that overeating any kind of food, even those that might popularly be considered as healthy, is not advisable. Each food type offers some nutrients that are beneficial to our health. Instead of looking at food in a one dimensional way- high cholesterol vs low cholesterol or fatty vs low-fat – one should have wider perspective when it comes to what constitutes one’s diet. For example, certain seafood might have high cholesterol but at the same time it might be heart healthy as it could be a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. So, by eliminating it from your diet you might do more damage than good to your health. A more pragmatic approach to food consumption lies in eating a well-balanced diet. Include as many food types as possible (no, junk food is not a food-type, by food types we mean vegetables, meats, dairy and seafood) and eat the recommended portions on a weekly basis to supply your body with the nutrients that it needs for optimal functioning.
A well-balanced meal
Consult your physician if you feel that some food types might be doing you harm but please do not self-diagnose and eliminate foods by following food-trends found on the internet; remember the old phrase, “half the knowledge is dangerous.”
Myth 4 – SEAFOOD & MONSOON
Stocking up for a rainy day
Storm front approaching
Another myth is that eating seafood during the monsoons is bad for your health. Well, to begin with, sea voyages during the rains are hard to make. Plus, this also happens to be the spawning season for fish along the Western Coast. So, considering that we would not like fishermen to make risky sea journeys for our seafood it makes sense not to source sea catch during this season. But this does not mean that eating seafood during rains has an adverse effect on your health. The rain does not hamper the digestion of fish. If that was the case then the tropical countries of Southeast Asia, that are blessed with plentiful of rainfall through the year, would not be consuming seafood all year round.
Not going out to sea to fish during the monsoon season is desirable, but not eating seafood during monsoons is not logical. Both, because of the advancement in fish farming as well as cold chain management and technology. The cold chain management in seafood trade allows us to preserve fish for 18-24 months hence, making it possible for fish to be sourced from across the country and be made available for consumption during the rainy season.
Bottom-line is that if you’re buying frozen seafood from a trusted source there’s no reason for you to not enjoy a sizzling fish steak or warm fish broth on a cold, rainy day.
Enjoy your bowl of fish soup on a cold, rainy day
Myth making is a part of all cultures, seafood culture included, but it does us no good when we’re no longer able to tell fact from fiction. In the case of seafood, when we begin to believe stories that are untrue it stops us from getting the most out of our seafood experience. For you to enjoy seafood as it’s meant to be, question what you hear, see if there’s any scientific proof to support these theories and then make informed choices. It’s definitely worth the trouble.