Most black tiger shrimp available in this country are raw, shell-on tails (the heads are often left on in Asian countries, but removed before arriving on our shores). The shrimp are frozen in blocks shortly after harvest.
The black color of the shells initially put off many consumers, but price, availability and quality soon won them over. Regardless of their color, the shrimp still cook to a nice pink.
Occasionally you may find shrimp with paper-thin shells. These are simply shrimp that molted shortly before harvest; they are of the same quality as others with more sturdy shells. All shrimp are in a continuous cycle of molting as they grow, exchanging their snug, smaller shells for new thin shells that harden until the next molt.
Black tiger shrimp grow especially quickly because t hey live in warm tropical waters, so they molt quite often.
The shrimp are often sold with classifications of "medium" or "large", while their industry sizing is based on a per-pound value. A shrimp labeled 21/25 will number between 21 and 25 shrimp to a pound. The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp. Most black tiger shrimp found in U.S. markets are 16/20 or 21/35, while smaller shrimp are sometimes available.
Black tiger shrimp are the most widely distributed and marketed shrimp in the world. Harvests occur along coastlines in an eastward arc from the southern tip of Africa almost to the Sea of Japan.
Almost 80 percent of the black tiger shrimp on the market are farmed, with the remainder coming from various Asian countries. They are easy to farm because they are quite adaptable and thrive on a wide range of environments.
Black tiger shrimp are widely available year-round, although the supply of farmed shrimp peaks in February and September and prices should be somewhat lower then. Generally, the larger the shrimp, the higher the price.
Black tiger shrimp have a notably firm-textured meat. This makes them especially forgiving and easy to work with. You can cook them whole, in the shell, or remove shells before cooking.
Black tiger shrimp, especially those raised in low-salinity water, tend to be milder than ocean caught shrimp.
All cooking methods are suitable for shrimp. They should be cooked just until they are opaque through the center. Cooking time will depend on the cooking method and the size of the shrimp. Overcooked shrimp are tough and nearly flavorless; check them after 2 to 3 minutes to gauge how much time they will need.
There is a surprising amount of flavor left in the shells and it can be captured in a simple shrimp stock. After peeling your shrimp, toss the shells in a pan with just enough water to cover. Add fresh herb sprigs, sliced onion, bay leaf, sliced carrot, sliced celery or other flavorings if you like. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain the stock and use it in soups, chowders and sauces, or freeze to save. You can also freeze the shells, and simmer then at a later date.
Shrimp are a lean, low-fat selection, although (for seafood) they are relatively high in cholesterol. A 3« ounce serving has 91 calories, 2 gm of total fat, 150 mg cholesterol, 18 gm of protein, 148 mg of sodium and ½ gm omega-3 fatty acids.
Simply Seafood Fall 1994
Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 01-14-95
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