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May 20, 2013 03:32 PM

Head on shrimp?

Got some today - can I steam them and eat the whole thing peel and all?

-saw a thread about it that says yes but I am still wary


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  1. I've never heard of anyone eating the shrimp shells, regardless of whether the heads are on or off. Personally, I pinch off the heads, shell the shrimp and enjoy.

    4 Replies
    1. re: carolinadawg

      There's a whole continent that views eating shrimp with the shells on as the normal way to eat them (unless they are quite oversize). A continent, btw, with 60% of the earth's population.

      So I'm pretty stunned that you've never even heard of this.

      1. re: seattle_lee

        That whole (nameless) continent must do this with a very different type of shrimp than the ones occurring locally on the continent where I live. It is in that context that I don't know of anyone who eats heads, shells and all.

        1. re: seattle_lee

          What, you mean Asia?

          I've lived here in Asia for a decade. Whole is quite common.

        2. re: carolinadawg

          It all depends on the method of preparation!!

          The attached photo is 'Fried Wild South China Sea Prawns with Spicy Peppered Salt" that fellow chowhounder Nilescable and myself had in Hong Kong this March. The shells and heads were so 'crunchy crisp' that we ate the 'whole' thing!

          The other version, from another chowmeet, are bigger Tiger Sea Prawns that were prepared just by boiling. These we need to peel the shell and heads. However, for this type of preparation, do remember to suck out the yummy brains before discarding!! Dipping sauces like Clarified Butter, Soya Sauce or Seafood Cocktail sauce are often used. However, personally, I prefer to eat them 'as is' since the flesh are so delicate, sweet and filled with Umami.

          Lastly, the third photo depicts 'Wild BC Spot Prawns' wok fried with Premium Top Soy sauce. Taken in Toronto during Spot Prawn season. Again, these need to be peeled. However, the heads in this case were much more flavorful!

        3. Yes! I use to not be able to but lately like the crunchy shells. I think there is more flavor with the entire shell and head on.

              1. re: madeliner

                You have shell them first to devein. I usually trend towards smaller shrimp so I don't have to devein.

                1. re: carolinadawg

                  you don't need to shell the shrimp in order to devein them. all you have to do is cut a sliced down the back of the shrimp through the shell and then remove the vein.

              2. entire thing is edible and the shells are a great source of chitosan.

                1. If you're still wary after reading the other thread, what makes you think this thread will change your mind?

                  (BTW, I eat the head and shells)

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: ricepad

                    just wanted a bit more info if there was any

                    1. re: madeliner

                      I would urge extreme caution if you attempt to eat the heads and shells. The shrimp I'm familiar with have pretty substantial "horns" that are very sharp and could easily cut the inside of your mouth, not to mention be a choking hazard. Perhaps others are eating a different type of shrimp. I am utterly amazed to hear of anyone eating the entire shrimp, shell, head and all. I can't imagine that would be a pleasant experience.

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        You clearly haven't tried a deep fried shrimp's the best part of the shrimp.


                          1. re: joonjoon

                            we have a very short season for local maine shrimp -- like a month. they are sweet, smallish, and often same-day boat.

                            local sushi places will serve the bodies raw, sometimes with a squeeze of citrus and the heads deep-fried along side. swoony good.

                            had whole shrimp at a cambodian place the other day that had a few jalapeno slices on the shrimp body, then battered and fried. waiter wanted to be sure we would eat the heads. "best part, yeah?" YES!

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              just found this:

                              "Fish do things differently. Fishes have evolved some organs that mammals haven't, one of them being a combination of the liver and pancreas into a single organ, the hepatopancreas."


                              zomg, so the heads are sweetbreads and fishy-foie in one tiny package. lol. YUM!