As published in the Jan 2016 issue of Powell River Living Magazine.
What is the difference between a shrimp and a prawn?
The answer depends on where you live. On the West Coast, large shrimp are mostly known as prawns, and the name shrimp is usually reserved for the small cooked and peeled variety.
The exception for that is the sidestripe shrimp, which can also be found fresh here in Powell River.
On the East Coast, shrimp is the common name for all types and sizes. The British call all shrimp-like creatures prawns. The name persists in most British
Commonwealth nations, including India and South Africa.
Shrimp/prawns are crustaceans. They have ten legs like crabs and lobsters, and a shell covering the head and body. Shrimp/prawns live in a variety of habitats ranging from coral reefs to sandy bottoms, but the species that are consumed as food usually live on muddy bottoms and feed on detritus, small plants and animals.
Here in Powell River we are lucky to be able to harvest or purchase fresh prawns and sidestripe shrimp. Shrimp are among the most widely available and most widely used seafood, but most seafood suppliers do not bother with fresh shrimp due to their higher cost and perishability. So take a moment to appreciate the bounty of the Salish Sea, if you’re getting truly fresh shrimp.
Whole raw shrimp/prawns should be stored on ice; their heads tend to blacken after about 48 hours. Head-off fresh raw shrimp/prawns have a shelf life of about 5-7 days on ice as do truly fresh-cooked shrimp.
Thawing frozen shrimp
Shrimp are best thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Place the frozen shrimp in a colander set inside a large bowl. The shrimp should not sit in their own juices as they thaw.
There is a quick method if you are in a hurry. Place the shrimp in a colander and run water over the frozen shrimp. Avoid letting thawed shrimp sit in water for a long time; they may become waterlogged.
Cooking and preparing shrimp
The most common error in preparing shrimp is to over cook them. Shrimp should be boiled in well salted water. Small to medium shrimp should be boiled 3 to 5 minutes and large 6 to 8 minutes.
Shrimp can also be broiled, baked, stir-fried, sautéed, deep-fried or barbecued but; whatever the cooking method is avoid overcooking!
Spicy Thai Prawn Stir-fry
- 3 red chilies (cut into thin strips)
- 3 cloves garlic (cut into thin strips)
- ½ -inch piece peeled fresh ginger (cut into thin strips)
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 6 green onions (green part only, chopped diagonally in ¼-inch pieces)
- 1-1½ lbs prawns (shelled, leaving tails intact)
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1 cup snow peas
- 2 cups broccoli florets cut into small pieces
- ½ green pepper, sliced
- ½ red pepper, sliced
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 12 mushrooms (cut into 4)
- 8-12 cherry tomatoes
- 1 small zucchini, sliced
- green onions (white part, cut into 1-inch pieces)
- (Vegetables can be added or substituted to personal preference.)
- 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce or soy sauce
- 1½ tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
Heat oil in wok, stir-fry chilies & ginger for 2 minutes, add garlic & green onions, fry together until lightly brown & crisp. Remove from wok, drain and set aside.
Re-heat oil in wok, add prawns & stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Remove from wok & set aside.
Re-heat oil, add vegetables, stir-fry until vegetables are just tender.
Add combined sauce, and prawns, stir fry until prawns are cooked. (Don’t over cook prawns)
Sprinkle with the crisp chili, garlic, ginger & green onion mixture.
Serve with Jasmine rice or chilled on a bed of greens.
Garnish with cilantro.