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Tail-on shrimp.

Just a mild rant here. What is the point of leaving the tail on when you order a dish at a restaurant? You are then forced to put your fingers in your food to bite the shrimp off of the tail or to cut each one off yourself.
Not sure what reason there is for this. Anybody know or in the chef biz to explain? Do people prefer their shrimp this way? Seems odd....

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  1. 1. Because the shrimp may come that way in a frozen box.

    2. Because it is sort of a thematic garniture to let you know the little fella used to paddle that tail in the deep blue sea.

    3. Because some diners will eat it (and the shell too, there is a hell of a lot of shrimp flavor in shrimp shells).

    1. Hmm, good answers, Chino. Thanks! But, I still don't like it! I mean, my grandmother used to boil shrimp shells to make a sauce, but she would still remove the shells from the sauce before serving. And, as for them coming that way in a frozen box, well, please finish peeling the shrimp for me, please. Thanks. hehe

      1 Reply
      1. re: mwerkharder

        I can see why for shrimp cocktail, where the tail acts as a toothpick

        but in a saute- i'm with you. what's up with that?

      2. because shrimp tails are delicious!

        1. Sometimes the last sweet bit of shrimp in the tail gets lost when you peel in mass production. It is like a bonus bite for the diner. Plus- since alot of people have your complaint..I snag all the tails and get a bonus round- so no complaints from me

          1. Labour - cost of removal could be one element.
            Presentation - I find shrimp in-shell or with tail on are more esthetically pleasing on a plate than the naked shrimp meat (tail). It also makes the edible part of the shrimp look larger on the plate.

            1. You're ranting over a PREFERENCE....just because you don't like the tail. I like eating the tails. I like how the tails look on the plate. I like the extra flavor the tails give to sauces.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ricepad

                I don't understand. Doesn't it hurt when you swallow it?

              2. The tails are a little 'handle' for those of us who enjoy touching our food...........

                1. I almost always leave the tail on when I make shrimp. If I'm feeling lazy I have the FISH TALES guy shell and devein them for me (they take the whole shell off). If not I shell and devein myself, leaving on the tail. They just look prettier on the plate.

                  I guess I just love Shrimp, with or without the tail. One of my favorite recipes is Paula Deen's Black Pepper Shrimp which calls for shrimp in the shell. Outrageous!

                  1. Leaving the tail on is nothing really when you consider shrimp or prawns are served with the head and "feet" on.

                    I know, I know...why would anyone leave the head or feet on? It's a sign of freshness in some cultures, as in not being processed or frozen. Like all seafood, the taste and quality of fresh vs. frozen/processed is significant.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      I have a problem eating shrimp that are cooked in their entire shell and head in Chinese dishes. It's hard to peel w/out getting your hands too dirty to eat anything else (plus you're peeling away the tasty part) but I'm not into chewing it and spitting it out.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I have noticed that asian diners eat the whole thing, including the shell and the head and all! I find the shell and all that to be inedible, but maybe I have been missing a good thing...

                        1. re: mwerkharder

                          The people I know just chew it up and spit it out.

                        2. re: chowser

                          I don't like the shell or head so there's a little trick involved. I find the "seam" and just peel the scrimp there. It's a hassle and messy but if the shrimp is fresh and good, it's worth it.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Spit it out? They should be totally edible.

                        3. Yeah, julietg, that's the most annoying, especially with a stew or saucy dish as you say. There is no way to be "neat" about it if you care about proper table manners. But, I guess I never realized how much flavor there can be in the tail, according to others here. I'll try and chew on one next time...
                          By the way, with fried shrimp, i do like the tail, because it is fried crisp and can be eaten easily!

                          1. I'm in agreement with mwerkharder. There's really no reason for the tail being left on. Peel & eat? - Fine. Now I'm not saying cut off or bite off the shrimp and leave that last centimeter on the plate, that's just lazy. If the tail is there I pick it up and squeeze the meat out with the rest of it. For those who actually eat the shell, well that's just plain weird IMO - especially the tail which can be dangerously sharp. It's all in an effort to make it look nicer, appear bigger, and reduce cost (time and effort used in getting that last tricky bit of shell off). for those who say it gives better flavor... maybe. But the tail shell portion is so small and the shrimp is cooked so quickly (or should be cooked quickly), I think the flavor addition is minuscule.

                            1. When shrimp are fried, i enjoy the shells, they add to the flavour and add a crunchy texture as well. The heads are possibly the best part. Crunchy, oh so delicious. Full of shrimpy goodness. When i make fried shirmp and people leave the tails, i eat theirs.

                              When not fried, i usually just suckk all of the goodness out of the head. The tail part can be taken care of in two ways to extract all of the meat. the first method is where you hold the tail fins in your fingers and twist the meat while gently pulling out. The meat should pop out though there might be a little left. The other mthod which i have come to use exclusively, is one where you grab the middle porting of the tail fin and pull it away from the other two parts. This should free all of the meat.

                              Personally i think the shell is more attractive, adds to the flavour slightly and gives you more meat. Leave the tail, hell the whole shell on.

                              For the record, eating the shell is not plain wierd, it is just something that you didnt grow up doing. I didnt grow up doing it either butu i did always see people in Chinatown doing it, so i gave it a shot. To me, not bad.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: MVNYC

                                "gives you more meat"...??? - no it doesn't.

                                There seems to be a common misconception here that by not removing the shell from the tail piece it gives you more meat. When peeling, are folks peeling shrimp and ripping off the last segment? I would agree that's just wasteful. I peel shrimp all the time, take off the tail shell and (miraculously, I guess) leave the last segment of the tail meat there.

                                As for the flavor: The shell and head most certainly give more flavor, I would never argue otherwise. My point is just that the tiny piece of shell is negligible in flavor addition.

                                Appearance: Yes, the tail looks nicer but unless I'm in the backyard having a shrimp boil, I'd rather my shrimp be 100% shell-less.

                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                  yes it does give your meat. When people peel raw shrimp, they almost always leave meat in the tail segment. When i am eating them i most certainly do not. The small ammount of meat may not matter to you, but it certainly does to me. I love shrimp, and want all that i can get. I actually am at the point where I am almost always eating the whole thing, shell and all no matter how its cooked.

                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                    Just so we're on the same page, you're talking about the 1 centimeter or so of meat or the teeny tiny little "spike" of meat actually in the flipper part of the tail that is about 3 millimeters long? If people are throwing away the whole 1 centimeter part they are without question, ignorant and lazy - I agree that is a waste. That small little minuscule spike is in my opinion not worth eating the shell for. It would take 100 or more little tail "spikes" to equal the same amount of meat found in 1 shrimp.

                                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                                      That little tail spike (actually, it's five individual nubbins: one in the spike, and one in each of the four flat fin-y things) holds a lot of flavor. Not much meat, I'll grant you, but the tail 'fan' is very tasty.

                                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                                        It is actually the flipper meat, and usually some of it is attached to that. I just had korean firshemans stew ith whole shrimp in it. I ate the whole thing, antennae and all. The whole shell is growing on me.

                                2. My French mother in law loves to suck on them, heads, tails and all. Très mignon.

                                  1. Until now I never heard of anyone eating the tail-shell, thanks for the perspective. I never have so may try out of eye-shot of DW.

                                    I like the way the shell looks on the plate and we are usually in a resto where picking up with fingers is not an accepted form of eating. DW and I merely use our knives and forks to carefully slide the knife between meat and shell and get as much as we can out of the shell. Are we always successful in 100% extraction, nope, but it's not a biggie in our book.

                                    At home I always take off all the shells and serve the shrimp naked. We use a knife and fork at home as well while eating shrimp versus our fingers, just a preference, not a comment.

                                    1. You can always spear the shell between the last bit of body and the little fins with your fork, raise to mouth, bite off the meaty shrimp, leaving the shell on the fork. It takes some practice but well worth it if you want to keep your fingers clean! Try it out next time you order some shrimp at a restaurant, or even if you make some at home.

                                      1. I like the tails and will generally eat them IF 1)cooked crispy and 2)the pointy spike is removed. Incidentally, if you twist off the spike but leave the final segment & tail fan intact, it is very easy to get the last bit of shrimp out of the shell once they're cooked. You just squeeze at the base of the tail fan and the meat will slide right out (unless the shrimp are overcooked).

                                        1. I'm not a big fan of eating shrimp tails that have been simply sauteed or boiled, but for fried shrimp I love the tails... they taste so good and they're not too hard on the system. Where we work, we take out the shrimp tails before cooking them, so maybe you should just come here to eat. :)

                                          1. Have been informed by a number of restaurants that the main reason for leaving the tail on is visual. It keeps the shrimp from rolling up upon itself too much and minimizes the appearance of shrinkage. This then allows the restaurant to use less shrimp in a serving. How many times have you paid $15-20 for a shrimp dish and been shocked to find out you typically end up with less than half a dozen of the little buggers?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: srcusa

                                              bingo. it helps the shrimp keep its shape, so doesn't look as small as it would otherwise.

                                              and to the op: if you're using cutlery anyway, how hard is it to cut off the tail?

                                              personally i eat the tails and the head goop. delish. when i make them at home, i leave on the heads and tails, but peel the bodies.

                                            2. I hate it when I am served shrimp with the last segement of the tail has the shell still on it. It is why I almost never order shrimp in a restaurant. At home I peel it all the way down to the very end just leaving a bit of shell on the fan at the tip of the tail.

                                              Leaving that last segemnt with the shell on is a fairly recent trend. I am guessing it started in the last 15 years or so. The shrimp I used to get was completely peeled. In many cases that last segment just gets wasted.

                                              1. Why?

                                                Because more people would rather have them on than have them off.

                                                You seem to be in the minority.

                                                1. Shrimp shells, tails and the entire head are yummy -- redolent of that shrimp flavor. It is also a good source of calcium. So I definitely eat the entire shrimp, shell and all.

                                                  1. Is it a myth that shrimps retain their flavour better with their tail on?

                                                    1. It is not that they retain flavour, the flavour is in the shell. So the shell will impart a flavour to the sauce, and as you eat it.

                                                      1. I never touched a shrimp tail until my first trip to Bangkok, where shrimp appears in many, many dishes. Toward the end of one lunch, my host looked at my untouched pile of shrimp tails curiously, then asked, "Are you going to finish those?" When I demurred, he casually reached over and polished them off like so many leftover French fries. So now I eat the tails, too. Tasty, a little chewy, and no doubt full of calcium, so good for your bones!

                                                        1. If you like to "clean" shrimp that is, remove the intestinal tract before cooking it is imperative to remove all of the shell and then the last bit of the tail. If shrimp are served with the tail shell on it indicates to me that they were not fully "cleaned". It wont kill you but be aware of this.