Prawns | CUESA

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Prawns

The names prawn and shrimp are common names without rigid scientific definition. They are sometimes used interchangeably, though prawn is usually understood as being larger, and therefore more flavorful and expensive (15 or fewer a pound).

Prawns and shrimp are classified as crustaceans, making them closely related to crab and lobster, though they don’t bear many similarities in looks, taste, or anatomy. Shrimp has long muscular tails, slender, virtually meatless legs, and a much thinner shell. In contrast, the legs of crab and lobster are strong and made for walking, providing a substantial amount of meat for consumption.

Spot prawns are wild caught from the U.S. and Canadian Pacific, and are a “best choice” from Canadian waters due to their more abundant population. There are concerns about population level American West Coast waters and overfishing off the Alaskan shore. Spot prawns are caught with traps that have relatively low bycatch and habitat impacts.

Gulf prawns are sourced specifically from the southern waters of the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes referred to as “America’s Third Coast,” due to its long coastline across the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. This seafood-rich area has made the region famous for specialties such as prawn, crawfish, and oysters. Fishermen must have a permit to harvest shrimp in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and distribution of these permits is closely regulated. Additionally, trawl vessels fishing for shrimp must use turtle excluder devices under federal sea turtle conservation requirements, as well as bycatch-reduction devices.

While prawns are commonly available frozen, fresh prawns have a delicious taste that diminishes in the freezing process. The head, shell, and tail are usually removed before eating, and can make a good foundation for a rich seafood stock. To devein prawns for a cleaner flavor, cut a line down the back with a small knife and pull the vein out.

Prawns can be used in any recipe using shrimp, they are better suited for simple preparations with supporting flavors like lemon or garlic that highlight their natural flavor.

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About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of farmers markets and educational programs. Learn More »