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Jan 14, 2005 03:34 AM

Attack of the Monster Prawns...

  • l

My sister-in-law is travelling in China right now and sent back this pic. Anybody seen/tried it before?

What is it exactly and how would it be cooked?


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  1. I can't wait to see what the reply to this is, because I have seen these (alive) in the markets here in Madrid and they are very cheap.

    I asked the fish guy what they were--I'm spacing out on the Spanish name, but have it written down somewhere--but he implied that these "bugs" are not very highly prized by Spanish people (who prefer cigalas--dublin bay prawns), but Chinese immigrants buy them up buy them up by the dozens...

    2 Replies
    1. re: butterfly

      Yikes. Look like somethin outta a horror film!

      1. re: Art

        They look a lot like crayfish (or cigalas--a pink salt-water crayfish-like creature) only gray and much chubbier.

    2. According to the Mandarin woman in the next cubicle, they are called 'PiPi Shrimp' and are a kind of lobsterish thing. Other than that, I'm at a loss! Ugly bugs, aren't they ?

      1. could they be slipper lobsters? i'm just grasping in the dark here...they do look interesting though.

        1. These appear to be mantis shrimp. I've seen them before in an Oakland, CA chinese restaurant, and thought the same thing, but I was unaware that people ate them. Googling "mantis shrimp culinary" brings up many mentions, however. The first two links brought up by Googling "mantis shrimp" are interesting. Apparently only distantly related to "true" shrimp.


          8 Replies
          1. re: ericf

            Absolutely correct - mantis shrimp. Not a shrimp really, but in the same Class (Malacostraca, which refers to crustaceans that have a single covering over the head and thorax - like lobsters), different Order (Stomatopoda). The scientific name for the ones that live around here (New England) is Squilla empusa and they're much smaller, but still grow to a few inches in length. They live in shallow water, inhabiting deep burrows that they construct in the mud.

            1. re: FlyFish

              I'm astounded that the critters pictured here are mantis shrimp. I've seen mantis shrimp scuba diving in Papua New Guinea and Thailand and they barely resemble what is in the original photo. This (below) is what I've seen identified as mantis shrimp. Very colorful, and no more than 6 inches in length. In both PNG and Thailand, by the way, mantis were pooh-poohed--at least by the dive masters--as inedible. My brother lives in Cadiz. I'll have to ask him about it.


              1. re: JoanN

                Oh, they're stomatopods (mantis shrimp) all right - I spent the first 20 years of my career doing research on marine and estuarine crustacea and I recognized them right off. The shape of the abdomen is characteristic, and they get their name from the unusual shape of the chelae (claws).

                1. re: FlyFish

                  Looks like a purplish shrimp on rice.

                  Most of the ones served are about the size of ebi (shrimp) in the US.

                  Quite tasty though.

                  1. re: FlyFish

                    Apologies, FlyFish, if my awkwardly phrased surprise made it seem as though I was questioning your authority. Not in the least! It was just hard for me to believe that the long, skinny, pale critter in the tank was the same as the short, plump, beautifully colorful one I'd seen crawling around in the sand.

                    Are slipper lobsters and mantis shrimp the same thing? Years ago I used to buy frozen slipper lobsters to put in a paella, but it never occurred to me that they were anything other than small lobster tails.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      There are many species of mantis shrimp, so it is unlikely to have been the same species. Both mantis shrimp and slipper lobsters belong to the class Malacostraca but they belong to different orders (mantis shrimp:stomatopoda, slipper lobster: decapoda). The slipper lobster is in the same class as lobsters, I believe.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        My goodness, Joan - no offense taken and certainly no apology necessary. I'm sorry if my response sounded like I was offended, because I really wasn't. I don't know anything about slipper lobsters because I've never worked in an area where they occur. But ericf is correct that they're decapods, like American lobsters and true crabs (decapoda = ten legged [literally, footed] - you'll find five pairs of "walking" legs on your next lobster or crab, the first pair modified into the larger claws).

                    2. re: JoanN

                      Based on a drawing in a food book, the picture looks like a slipper lobster. But I'm no authority; I've never actually seen one.

                2. Okay, I got some more info on these creatures. Here in Spain they are called "galera." In English: mantis shrimp; in Japanese: shako.

                  They can grow up to 10 inches and are ferocious! In the market, they are all rolled up in ball like an armadillo.

                  Here they are an Andalucian dish--particularly around Cadiz. I found several recipes online... They are often put in stews or just simply cooked. Here's the most basic preparation (which works well for almost all crustaceans:

                  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once it is at a rolling boil, throw in the galera (mantis shrimp). The water will stop boiling. When it starts to boil again, remove the shrimp.

                  And a slightly more complicated version that is typical of Sanlucar (near Cadiz):

                  Bring a pot of UNSALTED water to a boil. Once it is at a rolling boil, throw in the galera (mantis shrimp). The water will stop boiling. When it starts to boil again, remove the shrimp

                  Then plunge the shrimp into cold salted water for 1 to 1 1/2 minute. This solution is called a "sal muera"--the recipe says that the concentration of salt should be enough to make an egg float. The saltiness will penetrate the shellfish quickly. Make sure that the solution is cold by refrigerating it beforehand and adding ice cubes. This will stop the shellfish from cooking and will make the shells easier to remove.