While shrimp and prawns have proven to be a key ingredient in any seafood dish; they always seem to differ from place to place as to if they still have their tails or shells on.
Whether it’s paella or a shrimp chow mein, the chances of the shells or tails being left are a complete gamble.
Some chefs leave them on so that the customers have to remove them, labeling the meal as more natural and fresh. Whereas other chefs will remove all but the tail.
Table of Contents
- Is it bad for you?
- Why leave them on?
- Shrimp Shell Broth
- Shrimp and Mayo Sandwich
- Health concerns
Is it bad for you?
Surprisingly, not at all.
There are almost no negative reasons to not digest shrimp shell or tail, It is very similar to keratin and provides some protein when digested, so if anything it’s actually somewhat healthy which makes shrimp tails edible.
The only downsides are that some people dislike the texture or crunch of eating the shell and tail.
The bigger the prawn or shrimp, the more discomforting it can be. In small shrimp dishes such as paella, the tail is left on for added texture and is meant to be eaten.
However, in paella and similar dishes, cooked shrimp or prawns may be whole with the intent that the consumer will behead and remove the shell from them.
Why leave them on?
As previously explained, some chefs will leave them on for either the texture which they possess or for presentation purposes.
However, there is another reason to leave them on and that is for flavoring. Despite only having the nutritional value of protein, the flavor profile of the shell is surprising. They pack a punch and act as umami boosters for anyone wanting to make a super simple broth.
Umami is one of the 5 basic tastes and is normally associated with broths and cooked meats, therefore it is described as a ‘meaty’ flavor.
Shrimp Shell Broth
As discussed, the shells act as umami boosters and have a meaty flavor. This is especially brilliant for a quick and easy broth. To make the broth, all you need to do is saute the shells or tails with some butter until aromatic.
After this, add some salt, water, and any other aromatics you like such as shallots and bay leaves.
Bring this to a simmer until it has reduced by 25% and you will have an amazing tasting broth like no other.
This broth can then be used to make a soup tastier or even deglaze a pan of fried shrimp or seafood.
Shrimp and Mayo Sandwich
One of the most popular ways to consume shrimp or prawns is to have them in a sandwich with mayonnaise.
This can all easily be made at home, even the bread! All you will need is basic ingredients like flour, eggs, and yeast.
While you wait for the dough to rise, or any downtime you have while making this sandwich, I implore you to look at these baking puns to keep you in a happy mood.
One of the major concerns with shrimp shells or tails is that it still causes people with a shellfish allergy to react badly.
Shellfish allergies are among some of the worst out there due to their dangers so any broth, soup, or meal made with either shrimp or shrimp tails should be absolutely avoided if you have an allergy.
If you experience any of the following while eating shellfish then you must seek medical help or guidance immediately:
- Wheezing or breathing problems
- Abdominal pain
FAQs on Eating Shrimp Tails
Why do restaurants not remove tails from shrimp?
This can be for a plethora of reasons, mostly for flavor or texture. As shrimps are so small, the presentation would be futile. The texture and flavor, however, can be improved by the tails being intact. They are not crucial, so if you do not like them, feel free to remove them.
What part of shrimp do you not eat?
The shell in small doses and the tail are relatively harmless. The head and veins are parts you want to avoid, though. The head is not meant to be eaten and the vein, while edible, is actually a digestive tract, not a vein. Therefore the only shrimps you should eat are beheaded and deveined.
Can I eat prawn tails?
You absolutely can, if you want to. While not unhealthy, prawn tails can provide an unpleasant texture for some people. Shrimps on the other hand just add a bit of a crunch but the prawn tail is a lot bigger.