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If you are a fellow foodie, like myself, then I am sure you are constantly coming across interesting foods, or parts of foods, that not only appear confusing to eat, but have so many parts to them that it is hard to tell which bit is actually the edible bit. This is particularly common with seafood, and even more specifically with shrimps and the question of whether or not shrimp tails are edible. You can definitely eat shrimp tails if you like their crunchiness and taste.
The confusion doesn’t come directly from the appearance of the animal, but more so from the fact that we watch top tier chefs serve them with the tails on, time after time, and then we watch people remove shrimp tails whilst eating them, time after time.
Can you eat shrimp tails? Is the tail on shrimp tasty? Are they nutritious? Are they even digestible? If not, why do we see, more times than not, the tails left on? Well, I am going to try to tackle all of these questions today, and maybe by the end of it we will have an extra item on the menu.
Table of Contents
- Do shrimp tails taste nice?
- Are shrimp tails nutritious?
- What is the best way to eat shrimp tails?
- Why do restaurants not remove shrimp tails?
- So, can you eat a shrimp tail?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Do shrimp tails taste nice?
Well, that is completely down to a matter of preference. Shrimp tails are made of chitin – a hard, brittle material, common in many shellfish and insects. It is the consistency of chicken cartilage, and acts as a shield for the animal. They are in fact digestible, like chicken cartilage, but whether that is something you want to gnaw away at is a whole different topic of conversation.
Having said that, a lot of people like the crunch and, if cooked properly (flash fried with the shrimp tails on), it is said that they can be served extra crunchy on the outside but also still reasonably soft on the inside, giving that deep-fried effect that so many of us westerners love. The tail also packs a lot of flavour, so if you can handle the bite then powerful flavours may make it completely worth the crunch.
Are shrimp tails nutritious?
Believe it or not, chitin is the second most plentiful, organic fibre in the entire world, following closely behind wood. It is packed full of fibre, and calcium, and is unbelievably high in protein. Shrimp in itself is a very low calorie, high nutritional value and protein snack, but this has nothing on the tail end of the animal. In just 85g of shrimp tail, you can find yourself 12g of protein and only 60 calories – fantastic for those on a slimming diet.
On top of that, it has been said to lower your cholesterol, although some studies suggest it is itself quite high in cholesterol, so this is an area that is still being researched. Overall, despite the texture and experience of actually chewing through the shrimp tail, it may be worth it for the health benefits that come alongside shrimp tails being made edible.
What is the best way to eat shrimp tails?
Well, we have discovered that they are themselves edible when cooked the same way as the rest of the shrimp meat. However, for those of us who don’t particularly enjoy the graft of chewing through cartilage-like animal parts, there must be other ways to enjoy the entirety of the animal, giving us access to that flavoursome, nutritional tail.
Fear not, I have the answer! One of the best ways to enjoy the tail, and to make sure we aren’t letting any of the shrimp go to waste, is to use shrimp tails (and shells and heads) to make a shrimp stock.
When cooking shrimp, for instance, for a shrimp cocktail, keep shrimp tails, shrimp heads and shells aside, and give them a rinse under cold water. Place them all into a saucepan, and fill with enough cold water to cover everything.
Add in any leaves, or herbs you’d like to flavour – bayleaf or parsley go particularly well – and bring to a simmer for around 20 minutes. Make sure to keep the lid on to lock in the flavour. You can use this to make a delicious seafood risotto in place of the usual stock required.
Boiled shrimp or its tail can also be frozen and reused when necessary! A super easy, super yummy way to make the most of the whole shrimp without having to worry about chewing through it.
Why do restaurants not remove shrimp tails?
After discussing the challenging process of eating shrimp tail, it brings us to the main question: if shrimp tails are so controversial, why do so many chefs and restaurants, all over the world, insist on leaving them on?
Well, to keep it simple, it is literally down to practicality. Not only do shrimp tails and heads leave the shrimp looking more presentable when serving to customers, but shrimp tails also work as little handles. This makes eating the shrimp a lot easier, but it also makes cooking the shrimp a lot easier. The tail can be used to grip onto when frying or grilling shrimp, meaning that no damage is done to the shrimp itself whilst cooking and turning.
In addition, as I mentioned previously, the tail holds a lot of the flavour. This means that keeping it on whilst cooking the shrimp helps to lock in the flavour from the entire creature, but also from any sauces it may be cooked in, meaning that none of the tasty goodness can escape out of the end before people have had the chance to enjoy it.
So, can you eat a shrimp tail?
Of course, you just might not like it. If crunchy, tough foods are your forte, fried shrimp tails are the one for you. If not, your best bet is to boil them up and create flavourful, fishy stock. Either way, you don’t need to let any part of a shrimp go to waste.
Next time you are eating out and wonder why on earth they left shrimp tails on, just remember, it works as a really useful handle and one that you can even eat after (if you desire). So, in conclusion, shrimp tails pack a punch, and whatever your texture preference, there’s a way for you to enjoy them!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do restaurants not remove tails from shrimp?
It’s as simple as presentation. Keeping shrimp tails on makes them easier to cook and to then eat, as the tail can be used as a handle. Not only that, but fried shrimp tails help to lock in flavour meaning that the food not only looks better and is easier to eat, but also tastes better.
What part of shrimp do you not eat?
You can eat all of the shrimp. If the tender crunch of shrimp tails isn’t for you, then you can use them in a yummy stock. Similar to the heads – many people don’t want to eat these – so instead of wasting them you can boil them into a stock as well. The whole shrimp is edible and digestible.
Can I eat prawn tails?
Although shrimp and prawns differ, the ways in which they are cooked and eaten are identical. As a result of this, much like shrimp tails, prawn tails are also completely edible, but do face the same chewy challenges as shrimp tails and so they may better enjoyed in the form of a stock.