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Jun 12, 2007 03:15 PM

Cleaning Whole Shrimp with Shells

I've got this craving to make a recipe using whole shrimps with the head and shell on like they do in the Chinese restaurants. If I'm really adventurous, I may hunt down fresh shrimp that's live and cook it fresh.

My question is, do you have to devein the shrimp like what they usually tell you to do with regular shrimp? I'm thinking it must be messy deveining live shrimp. And if the shell is still on, how are you supposed to devein? Do you think the Chinese restaurants don't worry about this step?

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  1. You don't HAVE to devein shrimp. Its mostly done because people don't like the thought of eating the sand vein. And unless its a larger shrimp like a U10, it doesn't really affect the taste if the shrimp is fresh.

    But if you still want to devein it with the head, jusrt use a knife or scissors and pierce behind the head and cut down like you would to devein a headless shrimp.

    As for live shrimp, be careful with their spines, as they like to jump at you and stab you with them. Put them on ice to slow them down before you decide to devein them or blanch them in boiling water for a short time to kill them and then shock them in an ice bath to stop any additional cooking until you are ready to use them in your dish.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Homero

        I don't think I'd devein them live. What is the point of causing a little extra suffering on the planet when you could avoid it? As Homero mentions, no need to devein if the shrimp are not large. I agree that if you do decide to devein, at least do a quick blanch in hot water to kill them first. Alternately, you could freeze them live to kill them, but that might defeat the purpose of buying the live ones in the first place.

        Not a rabid animal-rights quack, just wondering.

        1. re: Homero

          And of course "sand vein" is just a pleasant euphemism for intestinal or digestive tract.

        2. Im curious to know why you want to eat the heads and shells?

          I like to use them for a stock, by simmering in water, or fish stock, or coconut milk, and then adding the stock to whatever to form a sauce......


          3 Replies
          1. re: kiwichef

            I don't think he wants to eat the shell, but when you cook the shrimp in the shell, you get better flavor the same why that chicken on the bone has more flavor to it than a boneless skinless chicken breast. Plus the presentation is pretty nice.

            1. re: Homero

              Unless I'm eating peel-and-eat shrimp, I want the shells gone - even the tails. It is way too frustrating to be in a nice restaurant and have to use a fork to remove a shell.

              1. re: Homero

                Yes, Homero's right, I'm just keeping the head and shell on to maintain moisture and for presentation. I break off the head and peel of the shell as I'm eating.

            2. I'm not particularly squeamish, and I don't think that shrimp have highly evolved nervous systems. That said, the thought of eviscerating a living creature is totally repugnant to me. Kill them quickly by chopping their heads off.

              1. They just throw them in whole. If you want, you can put the live critters in salt water for a few hours, to give them time to poop out the contents of their intestine first. Although it might take longer than a few hours to get it all out.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cee

                  Don't bother de-veining.. if the people you are serving to are squeamish about the vein, they can de-vein them as they eat.

                2. Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm leaning toward not deveining if I plan on cooking live shrimp.