Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jun 10, 2007 09:37 PM

Shrimp Heads

people seem to love "head on" shrimp. i used to only see this in bangkok - but now it's getting popular here in the states.

i don't get it.

do you suck the head - like crawfish. or do you eat the whole thing - eyes and all? i just don't know what to do with the head and so i cut it off and eat the body. if you know how this is supposed to be eaten - please advise! thank you.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. dtud, I eat these little gems at my favorite sushi place. They are crunchy, tasty and a great snack. The long tentaciles act as natural floss while you're eating. (If you eat a handful at a time, you look like the Caveman in the Geico ads.) Try them, you'll be a convert to Krill heads in no time.

    1. If you've ever had the Chinese dish, spicy salt and pepper shrimp, you'd eat the whole shrimp from head to tail (assuming the dish was prepared properly). If you haven't, and love shrimp, you need to try this dish.

      Many sushi and izakaya houses serve the body of the fresh shrimp raw, then use the head portion in soups, or deep-fry it to be eaten whole as well. Again, if you truly love the flavor of shrimp, you'll enjoy the head if the dish is done properly.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bulavinaka

        Happy Seven, here in Toronto, is one of my favourite lunch spots. I mean to try other dishes, and sometimes manage. But salt and spicy shrimp (4.99 CDN) is always on the board. Crunchy, tasty, good. And a good source of calcium.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          i only really started eating the heads recently and even then i'll pretty much only eat them when crispy fried otherwise it's just difficult! they become a bit thick and slippery and the crunch makes it easier to breakdown.

          love it though.. it's all just a whole lot of extra flavour. there's a reason why you use bones and shells to make a good stock!

          haven't had it raw though off of sweet shrimp but i also don't ever recall receiving it that way.

        2. My husband just sucks out the fat from the head, but I eat the whole thing. Great source of calcium.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            Calcium? I think that the head is it is mostly chitin, which has no nutritional benefits.

            1. re: JMF

              Shrimp shell has calcium in addition to chitin. Chitin actually has many benefits such as wound healing and fat-binding properties. Check this article out:


              1. re: Miss Needle

                I know about purified chitins (especially the highly refined form, chitosan) health benefits, but I am pretty sure that in the unrefined chitin they are not digestible or available as nutrition since chitin is basically inert . Also I think it takes drying and a mild chemical process to release the nutrients from the chitin. It takes relatively high heat, higher than the body creates, and low moisture for the demineralization and deproteinization to occur. Also it needs to be processed with acid and alkaline, as well as catalyzed by enzymes called chitinases in order to remove the protein and calcium. Also as far as I know the available calcium in chitin is in the range of 0.01%, with 95% being chitin, most calcium from marine sources is from oyster and other hard shell creatures.

                Do you know of any research that shows unrefined chitin as being a source for the health benefits and that there is readily available and digestible calcium?

                It would be great to see some research about health benefits due to eating shrimp shells, since I eat them all the time.

                1. re: JMF

                  Sorry I don't have any academic research about unrefined chitin and their health benefits. In terms of shrimp shells and calcium, I have not been able to locate a source that tells you what the percentage of calcium is in shrimp shells.

                  In terms of whether you feel shrimp shells have any health benefits for you personally, I think people sometimes need to listen to their bodies. I'm not knocking research (I used to do research), but people sometimes make their decisions based on research only to do a 180 when that research is debunked (eg. chocolate, coffee, margerine).

          2. jfood does not eat the head, the exterior or the tail of a shrimp. it's meat only for him.

            sitting at a sushi bar for lunch in NYC in the mid 80's a few Aussies sat down next to him and started ordering. the chef placed a live shrimp on each on their plates. Each lifted the live shrimp over their respective head, said something about the shrimps heritage (the shrimp seemed agitated so jfood assumes it was nasty) and then shoved the live, wiggling shrimp in their mouths and bit it off at the tail. Needless to say lunch was over for jfood.

            to this day that scene remains embedded in jfood's mind. now he peels, cleans and cooks all his shrimp (meat only).

            3 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              I made an account just to make this comment. Yes, it is almost four years late but no one else has done it and I feel someone should. Jfood, why the hell are you writing in the third person?? Upon reading it, my brain exploded and nothing is intact. AT ALL.

              1. re: naferitt

                jfood has insightful intelligent posts that contribute much to this board. So what if he writes in the 3rd person - who cares? I actually like it.

                1. re: naferitt

                  That's quite some life you got going there.


              2. The main reason I'm always on the lookout for "heads on" is they are usually fresh, as in not previously frozen. Fresh shrimp have a sweetness and texture that frozen shrimp rarely possess. Once you have them fresh, frozen will never be the same!

                1 Reply