Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jul 19, 2008 04:22 PM

Sashimi Shrimp Question

In my years (couple of dozen) of enjoying sushi & sashimi at collar level (I simply cannot afford the highest level) I just enjoyed delivery from a new place this evening. I have had shrimp before that was not raw. Poached in a sweet broth, as best I can figure.
Tonight my sashimi deluxe had a raw shrimp in its shell on the plate. By reputation, I trusted the restaurant so freshness was not a concern. The tail pulled right out. It was delicious. But I was left with the question---was the body/head waiting for me to attack it like a crawfish? Suck its little brains out? In my tentative state I gave it a half-assed approach and sort of went in, sort of stayed out. Some of what was in there was similar to undercooked tomalley--a little sweet, a little bitter.

Simple question---was I supposed to eat the tail and move on or was there treasure there that I passed up on?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sashimi shrimp as far as I know, mostly comes in the form of amaebi in stateside sushi bars.

    Some better places will offer the head off of the shrimp along with the meat, often deep fried, and yes they're very good to eat.

    I've never been offered the tail, but I don't see anything wrong with munching on that too if you're so inclined. If I have a shrimp tail, I will nibble out the meat in there, or strip the meat from the shell. No sense in wasting it, especially from such a gorgeous specimen of amaebi.

    5 Replies
    1. re: fuuchan

      Misunderstanding here......when I say tail I'm referring to the entire body, I guess---the part that detaches from the head/body carcass shell, same as a lobster or crawfish. When I pulled the tail off with basically all the shrimp meat and ate it, I was left with the body shell that still contained some....stuff. nothing substantial but potentially there was some tasty substance in there----only a fool will break off the tail of a crawfish and chuck the head----there's some good stuff worth working for in there. But it's cooked. this shrimp was not. Beady little eyes....
      So......did the chef intend for me to go in there or was it a given that the meat was enjoyed, the rest is waste. This is the hazard of eating unfamiliar food at home instead of at the bar where you can ask for a little help, please.....

      1. re: JonL

        I have been going to sushi joints for near 20 yrs now. -LA, NY, Chicago, (I could list MIami, but only been to one there, but seriously, I have had sushi 50 or so times in the LA area, 100's of times in ny, and 100's as well in Chicago.
        I don't (and won't) claim to be an itamae, or any kind of an expert, but I've been to the fancy schmancy places, and the not so fancy, and almost everything in between. I am a fan of ama ebi ("dancing shrimp" - which is so named because when served traditionally correct at the better places, a live shrimp is fished out of a tank, and prepared on the spot resulting in a still pulsating tail which "dances" on the tongue.) Normally, you will be asked if you'd like the head which is then deep fried, and presented as well which is QUITE a treat - similar to fried soft shell crab.

        If I were you, I'd call the place, and ask them why your ama ebi was served whole. I think a mistake was made, but I might be wrong. I've just never seen it that way - maybe others have different experiences. Please call them, ask, and report back if no others offer a diffferent experience.

        1. re: gordeaux

          "Ama ebi (甘海老)" means "sweet shrimp" because of the subtle sweet taste. "Odori ebi (踊り海老)" means "dancing shrimp", which is usually prepared with ama ebi or "kuruma ebi". Most high end sushi shops in Japan do not have fish tanks, so it's not a preparation particularly associated with authenticity, tradition, or chef's skill. And it's more or less a novelty there as much as it is here.

          "Botan ebi (ぼたん海老)" are larger and what in English would probably be called prawns. When you order sushi or sashimi of these, you are usually presented with fried head or it's made into a small bowl of shrimp head miso soup. For smaller shrimp, the head, tail, and other bits are simply discarded.

          1. re: Silverjay

            LOL -

            I stand corrected - not the first time. I was recalling a book I got prolly 15 yrs ago. But, as always, I prefaced with:

            "I don't (and won't) claim to be an itamae, or any kind of an expert,..."

            Thanx for correcting me.

      2. In China I had a drunken white shrimp dish. The dish consisted of tiny (one inch long) white shrimp in a rice wine sauce. The shrimp are served live, so when the cover of the dish was opened they would jump around in the sauce. All of my relatives sucked on the little heads, so I did too. The sauce was so strong that I couldn't really describe the shrimp head flavor though. I don't think theyres any harm in trying the heads.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lycheefloat

          I appreciate all the responses. Taken as a whole I think I've got it covered. There is some uncertainty on my part---My partner and I had enjoyed enough alcohol before and after dinner and I can no longer be certain of all my recollections. The head was definitely not fried. I actually looked closely at the shrimp to see if there was any residual movement on the assumption that the only raw shrimp fresh enough to eat was a freshly killed one (I made that up) but by the time I received delivery this baby, if freshly dispatched, was dead a minimum of 20 minutes.
          Unfortunately, a big problem with my recollection is that my mind's eye is picturing a red shrimp. Possibly I am misremembering but if it were red then it would not be raw so this whole thread becomes a bit sketchy. Yet my mind's mouth recalls the texture which was silky and not cooked. Might it have been boiled/steamed for, like, a minute?
          It would seem that I'll need a repeat performance to set this all straight. Thanks again.
          BTW---if anyone cares, the source was Koto in Prospect Heights Brooklyn, a newish place opened by the chef formerly at what is considered by some to be the best sushi house in Bklyn, Taro.
          Thumbs up.

          1. re: JonL

            I've never been served raw shrimp sashimi with the shell on...but some shrimp are red, pink or orange before cooking.

            The large, beautiful prawns often used for amaebi indeed have pink shells when raw.

            I have been given the heads of amaebi shrimp that haven't been deep there are a lot of possibilities here, huh?

        2. When I order sweet shrimp I always confirm that the fried heads will follow...such a succulent, flavorful, incongruous crunch with a soft-center. And silverjay is understating by calling the sweet taste of shrimp sashimi as "subtle"; I would call it an explosion of sweet, gelatinous deliciousness.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            The sweetness depends on how long the shrimp has had a chance to decompose. I don't know the precise science behind it, but something in the shrimp is breaking down and being converted to sugar or whatever it is that makes it sweet. Fresh shrimp, straight out of the ocean, will taste less sweet than a day later shrimp that had time to chemically breakdown. It's a slippery slope because as the breakdown occurs, the flesh starts to lose its' firmness and become mushy. Some shrimp can become sweet but start to get a weird kind of metallic taste to them. I think they are best when they are a bit sweet but still firm.

            Also, there is, I believe some confusion in this thread on what shrimp we are still talking about. "Ama ebi" are usually quite small. When served as nigiri-zushi for example, they are prepared "shotgun" style with two shrimp on top of the rice like this- . Ama ebi shrimp heads are small and thin. They are sometimes tossed in miso soup, but they are not fried.

            "Botan ebi" are usually bigger and served one per nigiri. Those heads are usually fried and served as a compliment to your sushi or sashimi order. It's very likely that "ama ebi" in the U.S. have come to take on what is usually referred to as "botan ebi" in Japan. So the confusion is propagated by sushi shops.

            EDIT: Here's a snapshot from a blog of "botan ebi"- .

            1. re: Silverjay

              Very interesting, Silverjay. ( and a luscious photo). It makes me more impressed by the skills of sushi chefs. (one day in repose not enough- 3 too many?)

              1. re: Silverjay

                And here's what amaebi looks like in its whole form.

                This photo was taken after 5 of us demolished the huge mound of amaebi (peel and eat, and suck out the heads style). And these were the remaining few shrimp, that were eventually finished off.

                1. re: E Eto

                  Most fascinating. Great photos. I would say that my single shrimp was smallish-----without the head, in a bin at the fish market, it would have been at most a 'medium'---around a 25, maybe. My best (but fast fading) recollection is that it resembled Mr. Eto's photo. Except it was a little more prepared, I think---the shell was split maybe? I'll have to do this again and pay more heed----I was too mystified and tentative with this new thing before me to just plain enjoy it and I hate the fact that I missed what was possibly sublime.
                  Cool info here, folks.