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Where can I get deep-fried shrimp heads?

Does anybody know if I can find deep-fried shrimp heads anywhere -- the ones they give you at a sushi restaurant if you sometimes order shrimp sushi? They're so good that I want to eat an entire bowl of them. But I've never seen them anywhere, even at izakayas. Can anybody help me?

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  1. there's a relatively new sushi place on the UES (I forget exactly where) called SATO. Always fresh fish, and some interesting preparations as well, and last time I was there we had a whole bowl of deep fried fish heads - just ask for them. Very good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: adam

      is that the same Sato as the one on Queens Blvd?

      1. re: foodwhisperer

        Yes it is - certainly one of the better sushi options in Queens, and hopefully one of the better in the UES (although, admittedly, there is much more competition there).

    2. They always fry up the shrimp heads at En.

      1. I haven't been to SATO. And I've never seen it at EN, but I guess I can ask the waitstaff. Thank you both for the recs!

        1. In terms of Japanese cuisine, there's no real standard item of deep-fried shrimp heads- like a whole bowl of them. But WHOLE fried shrimp (not battered, just shell-on deep fried) are not unusual. They can range in size from tiny to small prawn sizes. Typically, they are a type of river shrimp. You've probably done so already, but I would guess that Hagi and Riki, the usual izakaya suspects, might be worth checking out. Many izakaya, in Japan at least, will serve a small bowl of them as the obligatory snack when you order a draft beer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Silverjay

            Thanks, SJ! Yeah, I've seen the whole shrimp, but not just the shrimp heads. They are so good. I can eat them like potato chips.

          2. You know, Bar Q does an excellent version of this. They call it head on shrimp, but in fact they separate the body from the head, grill the body, and deep fry the head. Yum.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alexiskraft

              Do they just serve up the heads? I want to make more room in my tummy for just pure heads! The bodies would fill me up too much.

            2. Just wanted to mention that I found out from a very reliable source that Sakagura is offering sakura-ebi (little small red shrimp) this week. Perhaps this would be similar to the deep-fried shrimp heads I've been looking for.

              So for those of you guys who like it, now is the time to go as I think it's only for a limited time.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                Sakura ebi is really really small. It's like the size of tiny dried shrimp you use in Chinese cooking. Definitely not what you are looking for.

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  You're right -- they are very small. But I'm hoping they would fry the whole thing shell and all to mimic my big fat fried shrimp head. I know it's not the same thing, but it still sounds yummy.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    But the size of each ebi is not even 1/5 of a normal shrimp head. There is no meat and no roe. It's really not the same (not even remotely close)

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Sakura ebi are usually fried or boiled, but they are used as toppings or ingredients. They're about the size, even smaller, than a finger nail. They're not really close to what you're looking for. Did you looking into Hagi? They do a lot of fried stuff.

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        No, I haven't tried Hagi yet. I generally eat out during weekends. It wasn't on the menu, but maybe I'll give them a call and see if it's an off-menu item or a complimentary thing.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Needle-san, I was there at Sakagura for the saké the other night, but I spotted the sakura ebi and ordered it. You might want to check it out. Basically it's a "kaki age" paddy of lightly battered sakura ebi. It's served like a big pancake. Pretty good and fairly close to sensation and taste of munching on fried shrimp heads. Also, as I mentioned elsewhere on the thread, you might want to simply ask at a nice sushi place for them to fry you up a mess o' shrimp heads. Yasuda-san, where I was earlier in the evening, says he often sticks some in miso soup to get rid of them rather than throw them out. He would fry them or other stuff up, if asked. He reminded me that fish bones are sometimes fried up and served as beer snacks as well.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            Thanks for the report, SJ. I was actually going to check it out on Friday or Saturday night but couldn't because I was feeling like crap. I sent DH out to buy me some head-on shrimps from Chinatown (I never send him out for things, but I guess I really wanted them). He got a pound. I cut the heads off and fried them in three batches. The first batch I fried and sprinkled some salt. The second batch, I added truffle salt. And the third, I mixed some rice flour in the mixture and fried it. They turned out really well -- I'm sure not as tasty as the sakura ebi or the live shrimp heads at sushi places but definitely a lot cheaper -- the lb of shrimp heads came out to $5.49 and I had a whole bunch of shrimp bodies that I put into a Malaysian shrimp and pineapple curry.

                            Do you know how long Sakagura will have the sakura ebi? I saw them at Mitsuwa on Sunday but didn't want to buy them as it looked like the shell was peeled off. And I'm curious -- do sakura ebi taste like Maine shrimp? They look kind of similar.

                2. I really doubt you'll find just the heads in izakayas around here. Amaebi is a premium ingredient usually flown in from Japan or elsewhere, and come whole, with heads. So unless you get an order of amaebi for sushi, I doubt there is a restaurant in NYC that would have just the heads handy for preparing. Also amaebi and other fresh shrimp spoil very quickly, so even if they keep just the heads, they will have to be used within a day. I've never seen these at Hagi or Riki. The only chance you'll find them there is if they're serving up amaebi as part of a sashimi plate, but still not likely.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: E Eto

                    If I can't find amaebi heads, I may have to resort to just ordering 10 pieces of it at a sushi restaurant.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Most of the time if you order omakase at some places, they will fry up the head of the amaebi for you. At LAN they will give you two fried shrimp heads for one shrimp sushi on a sushi platter (with other sushi) --- it still perplexed me that they served two heads for one shrimp.

                      Then again, the number is still small.

                      I have actually had Thai-style shrimp sashimi (a whole plate of like 20-30 shrimps) and with all the heads fried up as a separate dish. But that's in Hong Kong....

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        That is kind of strange at LAN. I think I'm being so greedy here -- I had two shrimp heads last Friday and got so addicted to it. Thanks for the tip about LAN.

                        I was thinking about buying some live shrimp in Chinatown and cutting off the heads and frying them up myself. I can then steam the bodies and eat them as well. It's probably a lot cheaper.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Hi Miss Needle!

                          I do this all the time! You don't have to fry the head to avoid all the smoke and hassle. You can brush them with oil and broil the heads in the oven. Pretty much the same thing, though the shells may not be as crispy.

                          If it is the roe in the head that you are after, then I will recommend buying those frozen prawns with giant heads. The roe in those shrimp heads are the best! You can scoop them out and eat them like pate! :D

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            Thanks. I hate deep frying and rarely ever do that at home. The broiling the heads in the oven sound much easier.

                            And, yes, I do love roe!

                      2. re: Miss Needle

                        You'd probably prefer botan ebi heads to amaebi. Amaebi are shrimpy compared to their botan brethren. Some izakaya also fry up whole these little river crabs as well. Can't remember what they're called though. Anyway, most places I've see this type of stuff it wasn't on a printed menu. Probably they were shrimp on the precipice of spoilage......Another idea did occur to me. You can simply go to any authentic sushi place and see if they have shrimp head miso soup on the menu. This is a very standard post sushi meal item where regular, un-fried shimp heads are used for flavoring. If they do offer it, they are bound to have some sort of cache of shrimp heads. You could then ask them to make it up special for you. I would order a tall draft beer in the same sentence just to make sure you don't look too cuckoo.

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          The fried tiny crab are called sawagani. They must be alive (not just fresh, but ALIVE) before frying. Once they are dead they need to be thrown away.

                          Fried shrimp heads or shrimp heads in miso soup should be done with shrimp heads that are just cut off from fresh (if not live) shrimps of which the bodies are used for sushi or sashimi. Sushi chefs don't keep the shrimp heads around for any long time to flavor the soup. Instead when you order shrimp or lobster sashimi/sushi, the chef will ask if you want the head for the miso soup (or sometimes just do it for you). They only use the heads to flavor YOUR bowl of soup, not the whole miso soup stock that they have. So it is not common that they will have a whole batch of shrimp heads around.

                          Any professional Japanese restaurants will not use shrimp heads close to spoilage for frying or for soup. If they do they are extremely unprofessional.

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            Shrimp head miso soup is a standard menu item at many sushi restaurants. Ordering it has nothing to do with whether you ordered another shrimp dish or not.Yeah, they plop in a few shrimp heads in YOUR bowl for flavoring and suckling. The standards are usually ebi atama, kani, asari, or plain. Beyond that, shrimp heads, shrimp shells, whole sakura ebi, and other shrimp bits are often used as flavoring ingredients for different broths. There are some ramen broths today that are made this way. And whether something is close to spoilage or simply beyond the ability to be eaten raw, the standard solutions usually include deep frying, marinating, or heavy basting.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Uh, for the many years that I live in Japan, most of the time I see plain, asari, sake / tai, and yes, kani for miso. Rarely do I see ebi for miso soup.

                              Ramen soup is a whole different story. Can't be discussed in the same content.

                              1. re: kobetobiko

                                Maybe it's regional. I spent most of my adult life in Tokyo and ebi atama (not ebi, just the heads for flavoring) is not at all uncommon. Sometimes it's served as part of a lunch set. I always sort of admired the economy of it all...but usually ordered kani...

                    2. I think the only way you'll get these is by ordering amaebi at a sushiya and then having them deep fry the heads for you. I always get this when I do omakase at Shimizu. But I guess most good sushi restaurants will do this if they have amaebi that day.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: snaporaz

                        Yeah, I'm seeing that it's not that easy to find. I'm going to try the home version. While it may not be as good as live amaebi at a sushi place, I hope it's good enough.

                      2. I had a plate full of them at Esashi with the rock shrimp appetizer on the specials menu for about $7-8. The menu mentioned nothing about fried shrimp heads accompanying it. It was a pile of raw shrimp and deep fried heads.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: DarthEater

                          Thanks, DE! Seven bucks is a great deal. Beats paying -- what was it -- $10 per shrimp.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            Give us an update when you do try it and if it is what you were looking for? Its on the seperate menu.

                            1. re: DarthEater

                              Thanks to all of you guys for helping me with my shrimp request. I will report back.

                        2. What do you do with them? I'm not trying to be funny, I had some head on shrimp (BC prawns) that were sauteed and quite delicious but I only ate the tails. Do you actually eat the heads? All of it? Do you eat the whole thing or are there specific parts?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: hsk

                            the fried heads from Omma Ebi ( the baby sweet shrimp) served in a sushi bar the heads fried are easy to eat and quite tasty,, The heads on the prawns at Filipino restaurants are meant to be broken off the body and sucked out, the shells arent eaten.
                            As far as getting a whole bowl of shrimp heads, I'm sure any sushi bar will do it for you.. Even Jewel Bako, does fried heads, and they dont use the ones in your plate they have a whole supply of them in the kitchen. So just ask

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              I will ask next time I have sushi. Thanks.

                              Hsk, I'm probably a bit of an anomaly, but I eat the whole damn thing, even when it's not fried (unless it's REALLY huge and tough). When they're fried, you can eat the whole thing as the shells become really crispy like potato chips. But when they're in casseroles and such, the shells are a bit tougher and most people just suck out the brains.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                i also always eat the exoskeletons of my shrimp and the heads, unless too tough and chewy. i prefer them to be cooked in a way that makes it crispy.

                                even with standard-shrimp in restaurants, i eat the tails ... and no one ever knows how many shrimp i may have had (no evidence) so i can look blase as i go back for more. :)

                                the first time i had fried shrimp heads with my sushi, they immediately reminded me of fried pork rinds.

                                i would happily eat a bowl too.

                                East is a terrible place that i wouldn't send anyone to, but in my early days in NYC about a decade ago, before i became a sushi snob, i was pleasantly surprised that on the rotating conveyor you could get a small plate of just fried shrimp heads. the problem was they were not still super-fresh/hot. and the standard problem with the quality there. but they were one of the better things i had there. i never went back.


                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  "and most people just suck out the brains."

                                  I was told to do that and tried it and it tasted a bit like tomalley, which I don't care for. So I just left them behind, but there was a discussion (OK, argument) about whether "most" people do that.