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Head-on Shrimp

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I bought a pound or so of head-on shrimp at an Asian grocer--fresh, apparently (they bring them in once a week on Fridays from Chicago). I've never worked with these before, and am torn about what to do this first time. And I gather that they should be cooked pronto.

I've seen recommendations for various fried approaches (deep-fried with a coating of flour; pan-fried after application of various spicy marinades, etc.). Those sound great, but I'm a bit reluctant to smell up the house today.

I've also heard that the heads are great for soups and stocks. Here's my uncertainty: I'm thinking that if I wanted to make a soup, I should separate the heads, so as not to overcook the body meat. Is that the usual procedure?

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  1. Separate the heads? Yes, I think so. The restaurant I used to work in used just the heads and shells to make the stock for their Tom Yum soup. The meat would have been ruined if it had been added to the mix.

    1. I think it really depends how you want to eat your shrimps. I have seen the shrimp heads served with the heads. I have seen that for boiled shrimp. The idea is that you just eat the shrimps after they are boiled/steamed, and you just peel the shrimps one by one with bare hands and consume them. For me, I like to remove the heads as well as the shell for most things including soup, but that is just me. For stocks, however, I can see some reasons for leaving the heads on.

      The fresher the foods are, the more reasons they should be prepared with minimal seasoning/spice. So if these are very fresh shrimps, you may want to consider just boil them and serve them with a touch of seasoning like garlic or ginger or black pepper -- much like preparing a lobster. This should preserve their original tastes.

      1. Check this out for eating the whole shrimp: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/410119

        2 Replies
        1. re: mickie44

          Thanks, mikie44, and thanks to the others who've replied.

          I did see that thread before my post, and it makes whole-shrimp-eating look quite appealing to try. Maybe I'll split my stock of shrimps and try more than one approach. I will report back.

          1. re: Bada Bing

            Good luck. It should be pretty easy with boiling or steaming methods. Just make sure you don't over cook them.

        2. I buy only Head-On shrimp. ~~~ I "boil" peel and eat with head on for flavor. ~~ Head-On is a Must for BBQ shrimp ~~ Other than that.. the heads go in the stock pot.....I've fried the small ones head on, but not wild about them....

          Have Fun!

          1. A serving of giant whole grilled prawns hanging over both sides of a plate is a beautiful thing - I'm thinking Veracruz, MX, and Isla Margarita, Venezuela.

            1. Place them in a large bowl, cover with some sliced ginger and big stalks of green onion.

              Then steam them until translucent.

              Then prepare a dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, diced garlic and a touch of sesame oil.

              Then just go at it. Shrimp heads are wonderful. Perfect excuse to stock up on Zocor at your local CVS.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                +1, except the ginger and green onion should be in strings, very thin.

              2. Google Pascal Manale's BBQ shrimp recipe -- I'm making it for dinner tonight. Of course, I live in New Orleans and the thought of buying shrimp any other way does not compute. But if you're doing grilled or fried shrimp, throw the heads in the stock pot along with the shells. Another tip -- sautee the shells in some sweet butter for a few minutes before they go in the stock pot.

                At sushi bars, when you order "sweet shrimp" the heads are served tempura style. Delicious, but it falls into the category of something I won't make at home because I don't fry.

                1. Whatever you do, eat the heads.

                  You can grill the shrimp whole and eat the crispy heads, but the single best thing to do with shrimp heads is to pull them off and dust with flour/corn starch and deep fry.

                  1. Reporting back here: I ended up doing two things:

                    --I deep-fried a half dozen of them in a small saucepan, first removing the spike from the head (evidently called a rostrum) and dusting the shrimps with some flour and cornstarch and a touch of Old Bay. They were very tasty, and the shells and the legs were crispy. They seemed very rich inside. I don't think I could eat dozens of them, the way some people in this thread report doing.

                    --With the remaining shrimps, I removed the heads and shells and made a stock, which now sits in the fridge. (I should probably freeze it.) That will go to a risotto or paella. I was surprised by the reddish color of the stock. Each head had a quantity of red material, presumably organs and maybe some kind of roe now and then. For better or for worse, all of that is in this stock.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      I love shrimp head stock...aside from the great flavor, it adds that lovely orange color to a sauce.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        I did wonder about the rostrum!