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Shrimp, Lobsters, and Scallops
Fish and Seafood
Fall Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(3) pages: 32 to 36
An overview article about sea creatures appeared in Flavor and Fortune’s Volume 22(1) issue about abalone, clams, crabs. cuttlefish, geoduck, mussels, octopus, shrimp, and squid. It was minimal and only had one recipe for each of them. As promised, we continue in this vein in this and in future issues with more about sea creatures, a few in each issue. Most will have five recipes for each and this issue explories shrimp, lobsters, and scallops. Others will follow.
SHRIMP are the most popular and most consumed marine swimmer in the United States, likewise in China. They have many legs and live in and love the water. Some countries call the large ones prawns, but there is no specific definition for them in the US we know of. Many people believe prawns are big shrimp; but this is not always true. The Chinese name for shrimp is xiao xia, and some use the word xiao for shrimp and it does mean 'small.'
There are a few species of shrimp with extra-long legs such as the Macrobranchium rosenbergii. These are well-known in Thailand; and some folk there prefer them to fish because of their size. Others say “if there are no fish then these big shrimp can fill the bill.” All shrimp, be they fresh-water, coastal-water, or deep-water swimmers are preferred by Americans more than fish are, no matter their size. This is not always true for the Chinese. Many of them prefer fish to shrimp.
In Taiwan, they adore shrimp roe, particularly when cooked with Chinese celery and sesame oil, a bit of salt, fresh ginger, scallions, and Chinese rice wine. Roe, that is the eggs of shrimp, are not common nor are they preferred. In the United States there is no definition nor differentiation as to size of roe; nor is there for the size of shrimp, either. In the US, size usually means how many to the pound, fresh or cooked, with or without a rub. One popular rub is made with ground coriander, dill, oregano, celery seed, dill, and salt, with or without bay leaves.
Hard-shelled shrimp are known as rock shrimp, and all shrimp are crustaceans. Al are stalk-eyed and with narrow tails. Their tails are actually their abdomens, used to propel them forward, sideways, too. Most shrimp have skinny legs. They live between one and seven years; and no matter how long they live, they look gray, brown, or translucent when swimming, and they all turn pink when cooked.
People love shrimp. Man consumes more than half of them farmed. Fresh, they are widespread in every waterway, most swimming near the floor of their habitat be it fresh or salt water, often at fifteen thousand feet.
Shrimp shells can be soft or more firm, the segment behind the head is followed with six others and five pairs of legs. The first pair nearest the head are longer and larger than the others. Often eight pairs follow these bigger ones; and all are called swimmerettes. Many, but not all species, use the first pair for insemination, some actually have gills in this first pair.
Rock shrimp are lobster-look-alikes, and they are related to crabs and crayfish but do lack the large claws found on American lobsters. We have eaten rock shrimp when visiting coastal areas of Florida and do adore them. They can also be found in the Gulf of Mexico, California, in the Mediterranean, also around the British isles, and along many continental shelf areas.
Shrimp are not new to man; many species were around from at least the Jurassic period. Thousands of kinds were said to have existed in those earlier times but they are extant now. These days, more than twenty species are farmed, more farmed than captured at sea. About one-quarter of the farmed shrimp come from Latin America, almost three-quarters come from China, the rest from many other places world-wide.
All shrimp have low levels of saturated fat, are high in calcium, have large amounts of omega three fatty acids, and when compared to fin fish often have lower levels of mercury. As to their cholesterol content, shrimp and lobster have seventy milligrams of cholesterol in each hundred milligrams, but canned shrimp are known to have twice that amount. Scallops have only half as much cholesterol.
Worldwide, some but not many people have serious allergies to shrimp. Many traditional Chinese medical practitioners advise pregnant women not to eat them; reasons not always clear. We know of no hard evidence but do know their reasons change when we ask the same individual the same question at a different time.
When asked by shoppers about the size of shrimp per pound in the United States, we have been told that medium shrimp have twenty-three to thirty shrimp per pound, large have fifteen to twenty-three per pound, and jumbo shrimp have fifteen or fewer per pound. These categories can and do vary. We have purchased a pound of jumbo shrimp and received as few as five and as many as seventeen. Be aware these numbers are not fixed in stone.
The Chinese like to cook and eat their shrimp with the shells left on, they and the veins removed and discarded. To do remove the veins, they cut through the shells to remove them. They also like to suck out what they call ‘shrimp brains.’ They tell us they do that so they will be smarter after eating them. These is no research that we have read that proved that.
The Chinese know hundreds upon hundreds of shrimp recipes steamed, boiled, stir-fried, deep-fried, etc. We have found fewer dried shrimp recipes than fresh ones. Most need to be reconstituted in one of many ways. Fresh or dried, shrimp can be stuffed, chopped, mixed with meats or vegetables. There seems to be no limit as to how to use them. Recipes for them and all sea creatures in this article appear after they are discussed, often together as a group.
LOBSTER is the second most popular seafood in the United States, in restaurants that is. This may not be true in people’s homes where their use has to do with their cost.
In Chinese, these crustaceans are called long xia rou and for the most part, there are two species of them. There is 'Homarus' from the Atlantic; those from the northern hemisphere are 'Nephrops' while those from the southern hemisphere are known as 'Metanephrops.' The former are also known as ‘the American lobster’ and they have big wide claws which some call their ‘fat claws.’ These can regenerate, their antennae can, too.
There are other groups of crustaceans called lobsters such as 'Nephropidae' or spiny lobsters which some call ‘rock’ lobsters. They have small short claws with little meat in them. For these lobsters most of their meat is in their tail. They are found along the Florida coasts, around the British Isles, and in or near the Mediterranean, and are better known as 'Langostines.' They do look like lobsters but have thin claws, and most of them live on the continental shelf or on other ocean slopes.
All lobsters have heavily armored head and tail sections, claws too, and all molt or lose their shells and grow new ones annually. The most prized meat in all lobsters is in their tail sections; and many tails are sold without their bodies.
Most lobsters live in murky waters and use their antennae as sensors. Their eyes have a convex retina, and many have blue blood because of the high copper content compared to other animals with red blood due to their high iron content. Lobster blood can be clear and when boiled can turn opaque, sort of a whitish gel. It has no flavor and is healthy to eat.
Large lobsters can live to be sixty years old, and they add new muscle cells each time they molt. Some are found on land, but most are found in or near oceans. They generally live alone and burrow under rocks. They eat fish, molluscs, other crustaceans, worms, and some do eat some plant life.
These days, people think of lobsters as food for the rich. However, before the nineteenth century, they were thought of as food for the poor. The rich had no taste for them. These crustaceans were available millions of years ago when few ate them; and these days the poor rarely get a chance to eat any.
The sex of lobsters is determined by examining the first set of appendages behind the first pair. These are known as their walkers. Males are more bony, females have tails that are broad compared to the males; and this is so to hold all their eggs. Females can carry thousands of them attached to their swimmerets (also spelled swimmerettes). They can stay attached for a year, depending upon the temperature of the water.
Lobsters molt, that is shed their hard shells by splitting up the back and crawling out backwards. Then they increase in size about twenty percent. They do this about twenty or twenty-five times before they are of legal size, and they can molt four or five times each year. For the first few months of their lives, their shells are quite soft; and they seem to know that so they hide for up to eight weeks until a new shell hardens. Their larvae also molt; sometimes they do this while still in the egg, and again often until they are recognizable as lobsters.
These crustaceans eat small crabs, sea urchins, and sea stars, and can do so even when their claws are banded. Both claws are not the same, one is usually the crusher, the other the pincer; and the Chinese and most others like to eat either one. They like them steamed, boiled, sir-fried, or prepared in any number of other ways, and they eat them alone or cooked with other sea creatures, with meat from four-legged animals, and with vegetables whole or in parts. Many prefer them with sauce, some eat lobsters with none, and it seem that they always enjoy them!
SCALLOPS are white and wonderful, fresh and close to white when dried. They are the muscles of sea creatures in the Mollosca family as are snails, squid, and sea slugs which the Chinese call 'sea cucumbers' but animals of those names are something different. In Chinese, scallops are shan bei, and they are loved. Dried ones are known in English as ‘conpoy’ and most are in the family Pectinoidea though name changing of many sea creatures seems to be in progress.
Scallops are found inside two fan-shaped shells held together with a tough hinge, its abductor muscle. In Taiwan, their roe or eggs are popular, less so in the United States. Dried scallops are preferred in China; and there and in the United States they are expensive.
Scallops have well developed eyes complete with lens, retina, cornea, and an optic nerve. We do not know if or how they see, or simply if they are feeling high current areas as they filter water searching for food. In addition to these sophisticated visuals, scallops have both male and female sex organs in the same animal. They release their eggs and sperm into the water and there they fertilize other scallops.
There are two kinds of scallops, depending upon where they are found; those that swim in the sea and others that swim in bays. Bay scallops are smaller and most often are Argopecten irradem. Those from the sea are known as Pectin maximus, Chlamys rubica, or Chlamys hericia. There are other names for both kinds in different countries. Either kind provides about one hundred calories per hundred grams, both are high in protein and potassium, and low in calories and fat.
When dried, scallops, known as 'conpoy' and are a different color, usually more orange, and they have a stronger aroma, also a different texture, and they look like they have cracks top to bottom. Dried ones need to be soaked for many hours, then torn apart in thin strips. Like mussels, when live, scallops can secure themselves to a hard surface using a thread or byssus similar to a beard on a mussel, or they can clap their shells together tightly and swim about aimlessly. Most scallops are hermaphrodites with orange or coral roe. They live in water about one hundred eighty feet deep.
Scallops in the Mediterranean have somewhat flattened shells and are Pectin jacobaeus. while those in the Atlantic live deeper and are called Placopectin magellicanus. No matter where they live, scallops need related time to size for cooking, bigger ones take longer than do bay scallops; and both kinds do get rubbery if overcooked.
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