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Shrimp: wierd, mothball-like taste

OK, admitedly, I've never eaten mothballs but this is the closest I can come to describing the taste and aftertaste of fresh shrimp from two different reputable purveyors (in Philadelphia) now. Has anyone else noticed anything like this, and if so, can you shed any light on it? Is it some kind of preservative?

I have done a google search without any info to speak of. My husband claims that he doesn't detect anything different, so I suppose it's possible that it's in my head... but I don't think so. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

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  1. I bought some shrimps from Philadelphia, but I am sure these shrimps from East-Asia, either China or Vietnam. Either way, I don't notice any mothball taste.... what does mothball taste like anyway? Never tried one.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I don't know...Like I said, it's the best description I can come up with. This occurred twice in the past several months, but I did not notice this "off" taste with one source, so I guess I'll stick with them. Thanks for your response!

      1. re: 60s Girl

        Are these frozen shrimps? What form was the shrimps in when you bought them?

    2. Sometimes people will pour bleach in with the shrimp to keep them from turning... It is fairly common and pretty nasty...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Clarkafella

        That or the ammonia taste that can be found in bad shellfish

      2. sounds like iodine to me, which can also be intensified with sodium bisulfite as a preservative.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cocktailhour

          Yeah, iodine, is it a weird metallic taste?

        2. These were fresh shrimp purchased from a fish stand at Reading Terminal Market and also from a very reputable "natural foods-type" grocery store. They may have been previously frozen however... I don't know for sure as I didn't ask and they weren't identified as such.

          I suppose it could accurately be described as a wierd metalic taste, yes.

          So it could be bleach or iodine then? Is this becoming more common practice? I've never experienced it before!

          1. OK, I've tasted moth balls (please, no jokes about how I fit my nose between those little legs) when I was about 3 years old and got into my grandparents' coat closet. I thought, hey, if it smells so good, it must taste even better!
            One stomach pumping treatment later and I learned my lesson ;-)
            Having said that, I find the iodine that has become ever more present in shrimp to be distinctly different, but if you can describe it as "metallic", it's likely the source of the off taste.
            I've seen some of those shrimp at RTM with their lobster-like size! Is that what you bought?

            2 Replies
            1. re: monavano

              ramona, actually it NEVER would have even crossed my mind to make that joke. (poor thing, i think that moth ball ingestion did affect you!). LOL. oh great, now you made me think of "shweddy balls." schweddy moth balls. (thank goodness for chowhound. this is why mr. alka hates me being on here).

              1. re: alkapal

                I think I learned that joke about the same time as "say hi to your knee" and "spell I CUP". I did OK after the camphor extraction from my belly. My pretty dress, not so much.

            2. Is it mothball, or ammonia-like? I'd guess the ammonia thing as suggested by scubadoo97. Shellfish such as shrimp, crab, lobster, scampi give off an ammonia odor as it goes south (spoils) and becomes stronger when cooked. Apparently an iodine odor is nothing to worry about:

              3 Replies
              1. re: porker

                No, it's definitely not ammonia-like. Unfortunately, I've experienced that too, with fish filets. And these are not the gigantic shrimp at reading terminal... just run of the mill large ones.

                I wouldn't even mind the iodine odor so much (if that's what it is) if it dissapated when cooked. But you (or at least I) can definitely taste it. And it's wretched.

                You guys are killing me with the mothballs and the schweddy balls btw!

                  1. re: 60s Girl

                    I only found out about a month ago that Ben & Jerry's has a Shweddy Balls ice cream flavor...

                1. I can't comment on the weird, mothball taste, but I believe the only way to get 'fresh' shrimp is to get them from the dock. What we see advertised as 'fresh' and sitting on a bed of ice, was previously frozen and now thawed. For that reason, I prefer to buy frozen and thaw them myself. That way I know how long they have been thawed before I cook them. It only takes a few minutes in the strainer under a stream of cold water.

                  I had a chef tell me once that the iodine taste was found in shrimp from the Gulf. This was way before the BP spill. He attributed the taste to whatever was coming down the Mississippi River. I usually get my shrimp at BJ's, but have purchased at Costco, and never had a problem with the taste. I am located in NJ near Philly. Another place you can try is Samuel and Sons located near the stadiums in the warehouse area. They also sell to the public. I haven't had their shrimp, only their Mahi Mahi. They have an excellent reputation.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: geppetto

                    well that chef was wrong in attributing the iodine taste to gulf shrimp because they were *gulf* shrimp.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I assume you mean he cannot attribute the iodine taste to stuff coming down the Mississippi cause the shrimp are in the *gulf*, not the river?

                      FWIW, according to US Marine Shrimp Farming Program:
                      "Gulf brown shrimp tends to have an iodine flavor, sometimes more pronounced than others, says Stites. This is actually bromine, not iodine, and it is more of an odor than a taste, says Russell Miget, associate professor of seafood technology for Texas A&M University. Aromas are a large component of taste. However, most people don't know what bromine smells like, so the accepted description is iodine-like when it occurs in shrimp. Not all shrimp in the same catch will have a bromine smell. It depends on what the shrimp has eaten, Miget says."

                    2. re: geppetto

                      Thanks Geppetto, I didn't know Samuels and Sons sold to the public. Also curious to give the frozen shrimp a try. I think I tried the "cooked, frozen" at one time and didn't care for them. I'll try the raw frozen.

                      Not sure if what I'm tasting ( a recent phenomenon) is iodine, but it certainly could be.

                      1. re: 60s Girl

                        I have been getting my shrimp from BJs - 2 lbs 31-40 count. I think the last bag was $13.49 (Thanks BP!) It was quite a bit cheaper than the 26-30 count, 2 lb bag. Both are peeled and deveined. We have been very happy with the flavor / taste. The 2 lb bag is manageable for our freezer. We have also been happy with their precooked shrimp and use them for shrimp salad on occasion. BTW - I even tried the $5 bags of cooked shrimp from WalMart for shrimp salad - taste was good, but it bothered me that it was 14 oz and not 16 oz since I have to share my shrimp salad with someone else. I wanted a pound!

                        I usually grill the shrimp - thaw under running cold water, pat dry, toss in some Carapelli light olive oil and a tsp or two of Paul Prudhommes Seafood Magic, and they go right on the grill - or saute - thaw, dry, melt a big ol' hunk of Smart Balance, sprinkle a tsp of Cajun Seasoning, toss in shrimp, another tsp season, turn shrimp, another tsp of seasoning, when done remove shrimp, sauce into another dish, serve over rice.

                        One thing that has really helped is a Thermapen - you know when the shrimp have come up to temperature - it has paid for itself in the food that I have not ruined.

                        @ porker - Thanks for the info regarding the flavor and fragrance! Nice to see a clarification of bromine vs. iodine. My belief was that the taste was due to what the shrimp had consumed - similar to grain fed vs grass fed cattle, and the environment. I'm not saying it's bad, just that the tastes are not for me. BTW - Why is it that we never see a sign that says 'Fresh from the mouth of the Hudson River'? Thanks again!

                      2. re: geppetto

                        To further clarify the whole Iodine taste thing in gulf shrimp, it's really only prevalent in brown shrimp, especially brown shrimp from the texas gulf coast. I think its awful, but many people actually seek these shrimp out because they desire that flavor profile.

                        I avoid the chance of the iodine flavor by buying white gulf shrimp.

                        1. re: twyst

                          That's good to know!

                          Thank you!

                          I wish identifying steaks that taste like liver were that easy...

                      3. I think I know exactly what you are talking about! There is one Chinese takeout place near me where the shrimp taste like that. It is kind of mothball like, it's kind of a musty taste. That being said, I have no idea what it is. I don't think the shrimp are spoiled. I definitely didn't like it though so I never order from that place anymore!

                        1. I know the taste. Its almost a light dirt or moldy taste. I thought it might be not being deveined correctly or soon enough after they die.

                          1. If the shrimp came from Asia those shrimp were 'flash frozen' aboard a factory ship or ashore. That's the only way shrimp/sea food from Asia is processed now days for export. Before the shrimp are flash frozen they all enjoy a little dip in a vat full of preservatives. The farther off shore the ship is the more likely that the preservatives are reused and reused reducing the processing cost. The more the vats full of chemicals are used the 'nastier' the smell. The (cough) health inspector who by law must be aboard every factory ship has to sleep sometime and pretty much all of them are 'on the take'. Their lifestyle ashore does not remotely equate to their salaries as a health inspectors.
                            Before every factory ship leaves port the 45 gallon barrels of 'preservatives' are counted. The barrels of preservative were purchased buy the factory ship's owner from his sister's son-in-law. Simple math says you processed 'X' tons of shrimp therefore you had to have, by law, used 'X' gallons of preservative if you were changing the chemicals in the vats as you were supposed to right? Right. Only thing is some of the 'specially marked' barrels only contain sea water. When the (cough) health inspector was enjoying a 'beverage' with his second cousin, the Captain, those 'specially marked' barrels were emptied overboard. Anyway. There are too many reasons never to purchase Asian sea food of any type. Moth ball taste is just one of them. Basic personal hygiene aboard those ships? Not so much. The workers are basically slaves. The 'trawlers' basically drag the sea bed and scoop up in the 'trawl' every living creature leaving the sea bed a watery desert. The 'by-catch' is ground up and made into fish food for the farm fish being raised in cess pools. These farm-fish also take a little dip in God knows what before being flash frozen and exported to our grocery stores. The whole industry is an environmental nightmare. GAAAAAAAAAAH!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Puffin3

                              thank you puffin. the picture you paint is even worse than the mere "antibiotic soup" ponds i imagined for farmed shrimp.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                In the spirit of not wanting to 'gross' people out I didn't mention some of the really horrible things......no kidding.

                            2. I think the best advice given from a friend who is a marine ecologist is to avoid all farm raised seafood, especially the Asian shrimp. I always seek out wild gulf shrimp. Yes, you pay more, but you support our shrimpers and avoid all nastiness associated with the Asian fisheries

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jwg

                                I'm fortunate to live where I can set my prawn/crab traps nearby.