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Your opinion.....

LEOFONT Mar 12, 2012 03:57 PM

After hearing from a long time Chef,.....he said many of the shrimp that restaurants serve, particularly Asian
are from unclean waters from southeast Asia.....known in the trade as "sewer shrimp"...but because of their low cost, and the tight margins restaurants are working with today, it could become a hazard to the public,....my question,......is it proper to ask management WHERE the shrimp they serve, comes from ?

  1. huiray Mar 16, 2012 07:22 AM


    However, I'm not too sanguine about getting a useful answer in most mid- to low-level places. Maybe at a high-end place.

    1. Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2012 08:16 PM

      Many years ago, I worked for Union Carbide. Though they were known for other "chemicals," they had one arm, that raised shrimp in India. They were small, and not very tasty, but then I was living in New Orleans, with two Gulf shrimp seasons. Still, many tons were sold, due to their fairly uniform, small size, so the venture was profitable.

      I always want to know where my seafood comes from, and do ask, though I have been lied to, on several occasions. Still, I ask, and if the answers are not forthcoming, will ask to speak to the chef. However, and especially with softshelled crabs, I have been lied to, yet again.



      1. bagelman01 Mar 13, 2012 10:18 AM

        Proper? ABSOLUTELY
        Will you get the correct information? MAYBE
        The restaurant may have a mixed lot from assorted countries, buying by size and price and storing them in the freezer. When asked, they may just look at the next sealed bag in the freezer. It may say "product of Thailand' but the open bag that had your shrimp in it was 'Product of Viet Nam'

        Unless you live near the shore and the restaurant buys only off the local boat, you may be truly unable to ascertain the source of the shrimp.

        Last week I was in the fish department of my local major chain supermarket and saw them taking salmon filets out of a box marked "Chile" and putting them on ice behind a sign that said "farm raised Atlantic Salmon, product of Canada"
        At least it was Salmon, and both countries begin with "C".............................

        6 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01
          coll Mar 15, 2012 10:40 AM

          Most chefs I know either order "Asian" shrimp, or "Gulf" shrimp. You could start there. There's a decent price difference so they should know without having to look at the packaging.

          BTW "farmed" shrimp are those come from unclean waters, wild shrimp is what you might want to look/ask about instead.

          1. re: coll
            Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2012 08:18 PM

            Well, not all "farmed shrimp" come from unclean waters. There are several operations, that do a great job with them. Others? Well maybe not.


            1. re: Bill Hunt
              coll Mar 16, 2012 06:13 AM

              The uncleanliness is from their waste being contained in the shallow pools they are grown in, from what I've seen and heard. I'm sure there are ways to clean it up a bit, but if the shrimp you're buying is rock bottom price then probably doesn't apply.

              1. re: coll
                Bill Hunt Mar 16, 2012 10:19 PM

                I have only observed maybe a dozen "shrimp ponds," and in each of those, filtration was very good.

                Now, that obviously does not apply to all "farmed" fish/shrimp/crabs - only but a few.

                In Hawai`i, great care is taken with the fish ponds (an ancient item), and the shrimp farms. Same for similar in Arizona (Yuma), and a few other locations.

                Cannot comment on other locations.


                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  coll Mar 17, 2012 09:58 AM

                  Good to know, I only have hearsay. As far as my seeing it, it's been on video.

                  1. re: coll
                    Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2012 08:18 PM

                    I can only relate to those shrimp ponds, were we have spent some time, and that will not be but a tiny fraction of all out there, but in our limited experiences, the shrimp were fine - though not up to fresh Gulf Shrimp, when in "season." Still, in Hawai`i, and a few other locations, they have been very, very good. In AZ, we had a restaurant, Sweet Shrimp, that used shrimp farmed from down around Gila Bend, and they were quite good.


        2. Dax Mar 13, 2012 09:54 AM

          In Alabama, I believe (by law) that a restaurant must tell you the country of origin their seafood upon asking.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Dax
            Harters Mar 15, 2012 09:13 AM

            How is that possible? If it has been fished in international waters, as much (if not most) is, then surely there is no country of origin.

            Is it perhaps country where the catch was landed, or the nationality of the boat's registration? Of course, both would also be pretty meaningless in the context of this thread.

            1. re: Harters
              Quine Mar 15, 2012 05:14 PM

              Hey Dax is only saying what the law might be, so ease up on him. In the USA there are some pretty stupid "laws", especially nowadays. But it takes a group of people to write the law and vote it into use. Dax, I am sure, is not that group.

              1. re: Quine
                Dax Mar 16, 2012 08:35 AM

                Pretty much but I do not think it's a stupid law. It's well meaning, even if some people may not always be able to readily identify the actual country of origin.

                1. re: Quine
                  Harters Mar 17, 2012 02:56 AM

                  You shouldnt interpret my post as being harsh on Dax. It was a request for information and should be read in that context.

                  I am curious to know what a restaurant would say, to stay inside the law, about seafood caught in international waters as much "deep sea" fish will be.

                  Dax - you note that restaurants may not readily be able to comply with the law - which I assume means there's a lot of prosecutions for violations (unless they just make something up, if asked, of course). How do they cope with that? Must be really difficult for restaurateurs.

                2. re: Harters
                  KaimukiMan Mar 15, 2012 07:38 PM

                  I doubt if very much shrimp is caught in international waters as most shrimp live in fairly shallow waters, not in the open ocean.

                  1. re: Harters
                    Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2012 08:28 PM

                    In the US, most offshore shrimp fishing is within the US limits, though perhaps not always.

                    I cannot speak for many bodies of water, but in the Gulf of Mexico, the shrimp fishing is much closer to on-shore, or in, say Lake Pontchartrain.

                    We most often do Gulf shrimp, and most DO come from well within the 12 mile limit.

                    For other bodies of water? Well, that may well depend.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                      Veggo Mar 15, 2012 08:58 PM

                      Bill, when I'm living in Mexico, the large shrimp from around Veracruz and the bay of Campeche are wonderful - same bowl of water as your Gulf...:)

                      1. re: Veggo
                        Bill Hunt Mar 16, 2012 10:16 PM


                        I agree completely. The Bay of Campeche has wonderful seafood, and I like the Vera Cruz stuff, better than most of the Pacific seafood - maybe the prep?

                        Gulf of Mexico seafood is about as good as it gets, and I have seldom found better examples, from anywhere.


                3. h
                  Harters Mar 13, 2012 06:41 AM

                  Absolutely no reason why you shouldnt ask about sourcing - for example, I would always ask in which country veal had been raised.

                  Of course, they may not know the answer. Or lie.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Harters
                    Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2012 08:45 PM


                    With seafood, I would disagree.

                    There are many differences, and some, not so subtle, say with sole, or flounder (cousins). Same with both shrimp and crabs. A petrale sole from US waters will be quite different that a real Dover sole. An Alaskan salmon will be greatly different, than an Atlantic salmon, or a Scottish salmon. Same for a Chesapeake Bay blue crab vs a Gulf blue crab. It can make a difference, and sometimes a great difference.

                    As to knowing the answer, or their veracity, that is a different story. I recently called out a chef in the Mid-Atlantic region, and confronted him about "fresh, live softshelled crabs." They were obviously long frozen, and even rancid, though he claimed that they were alive that morning. No way. They were frozen, and had actually spoiled. Now, had I been a tourist from the hinterlands, I might have bought his tales. However, I have harvested softshelled crabs, and have had the best on Earth. When backed into a corner, he finally admitted that they WERE frozen, and that they could well have gone bad. Until that last moment, he held tough, until confronted with the facts - the crabs were mushy and also spoiled. He could not eat them.

                    Not sure about veal, but with seafood, it DOES matter.


                  2. t
                    thegforceny Mar 12, 2012 11:40 PM

                    Yes, you can ask: "Is it Local?" This video may help.


                    And yeah, your chef friend is an idiot.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: thegforceny
                      Quine Mar 13, 2012 02:44 PM

                      ROFL and LOL (just because) That video was funny!

                      Personally, when I wish to buy the best and freshest fish/seafood possible, I go to either an Asian Supermarket (Hong Kong Supermarket) or H Mart.

                      I'd say that the "long time chef" is speaking from a place of long time ignorance and stereotyping.

                      1. re: thegforceny
                        bobbert Mar 14, 2012 11:25 AM

                        That really is a great video.

                        1. re: thegforceny
                          joe777cool Mar 14, 2012 09:17 PM

                          2.5 minutes of my life I will never get back.....now 3.5 minutes including this post. Probably doesnt come off as funny (to me) because its too close to the truth, are there really people like this in the world?

                          1. re: joe777cool
                            lbs Mar 15, 2012 03:54 PM

                            LQTM (laughing quietly to myself) - I have seen people like that in restaurants. Maybe not as exaggerated but almost

                            1. re: joe777cool
                              thegforceny Mar 15, 2012 05:13 PM

                              Yes, as a matter of fact, there are. And I hear they post on this site called Chowhound!

                              1. re: joe777cool
                                huiray Mar 16, 2012 07:12 AM

                                Have a look at these...(apropos what thegforceny said...):

                                Colin was also the object of comment here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/762185

                              2. re: thegforceny
                                calliope_nh Mar 15, 2012 08:00 PM

                                Just before I got to your reply I thought to myself, "the chicken's name was Colin."

                              3. e
                                escondido123 Mar 12, 2012 08:58 PM

                                I would have no problem asking about the source of any ingredient on a menu. It is then my choice what to order depending upon the answer.

                                1. KaimukiMan Mar 12, 2012 08:55 PM

                                  Not uncommon these days for patrons to ask where many / any of the ingredients in a meal came from. Not that the restaurant always knows - or has been told the truth themselves. On Friday I heard a patron ask if there were 'additives' in the burgers. The waiter was quite honest and said they didn't think there were, but were trying to get final confirmation from their supplier.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                                    Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2012 08:54 PM

                                    Let's look at one of my Hawai`i favorites, Mama's Fish House. They take pains to go into detail on where the fish came from - such as "line caught by O'lo Masagua, on the vessel Miss Kapalanai, off of Maui." Now, does that mean that that fish will be better than the earlier one, "deep line caught by Osaka Miamisu from the Contra Costa?" I do not know, but that gets close to knowing the fish's parents, and where he/she went to grad school.



                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                      KaimukiMan Mar 15, 2012 09:11 PM

                                      If only Maui and I got along better.... oh well, can't have everything. I have to admit, I don't know of any restaurant on Oahu that does that.

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan
                                        Bill Hunt Mar 16, 2012 10:12 PM


                                        I agree with you. I have only encountered such in San Francisco, a few areas near-by, and at Mama's. Some have claimed that it is all hype, but I have had the staff at Mama's switch out my menu, as a new "catch" came in, and they wanted to update things. Nice touch, whether hype, or actual info.

                                        Now, one restauranteur in Phoenix is almost so anal. He meets each day's seafood at the airport, and while he might not know who caught what, knows exactly where each item came from. Again, it shows in his menus.


                                      2. re: Bill Hunt
                                        Veggo Mar 15, 2012 09:45 PM

                                        Bill, I agree it is nice to know the source, and the freshness. In Playa del Carmen, La Tarraya and La Mission have their own fisherman, and one can stop by mid-day and select a fish for dinner later - boquinette, redfish, huachinango, grouper, plus tuna and marlin when they run in May. Same for Cueva del Pescador in Akumal, extraordinary. And at Capricorn on Ambergris Caye in Belize, when the boat comes in with the day's stone crabs from Caye Caulker, Kit will let me pick out a few colossals and reserve them for dinner. That's good eatin'!

                                        1. re: Veggo
                                          Bill Hunt Mar 16, 2012 10:14 PM

                                          That is very nice, and I would greatly appreciate such.

                                          Way, way back when, I used to sell much of my day's catch to some local restaurants on the Gulf Coast. While none of the restaurants listed ME as the fisherman, they did state where, when and how, those fish were caught. Guess that I should have been on Maui, and sold to Mama's? Heck, I might be famous by now.

                                          Travel safely, and dine well,


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            Quine Mar 17, 2012 12:29 AM

                                            Bill Hunt You Are famous here! I always read your posts with appreciation and learn a great deal.

                                            1. re: Quine
                                              Bill Hunt Mar 17, 2012 08:12 PM

                                              Those are very kind words, and I am definitely sure that I am not worthy of them.

                                              Actually Veggo is the "master," and we are all but "grasshoppers."

                                              Still, thank you for the thoughts,


                                    2. f
                                      fourunder Mar 12, 2012 04:05 PM

                                      Your chef friend is an idiot......most Asian restaurants get their fish and sea food sourced from the same suppliers as other restaurants in the same area....be it Italian, French, Greek, Mexican...or whatever.. With that said, there is a large amount of sea foods imported from Southeast Asia, but to say who purchases it is purely speculation.

                                      As a patron you can always ask any questions you have out of curiosity or concern..

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