Toronto is one of the most lucrative North American markets for shrimp.

Consumers seem to have a love affair with shrimp.

Peeled and deveined shrimps are easy to eat, have no bones to contend with and can be flavoured every which way.

Until a few years ago, choice of shrimp specie was limited to “one” type, but size could be specified ranging from salad shrimp aka Matane on the St Lawrence River, to tiger shrimp nine of which weigh 453 grams,

Now you can buy pink, white, brown or black shrimp from countries as far away as Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Chinese just to name a few, and as close as the Gulf of Mexico, where the best, tastiest and most expensive originate.

In a fine seafood store, you can find frozen head off or head-on shrimp, farmed or ocean caught, peeled and deveined, breaded and frozen, shell on or off, and processed in other forms.

The best shrimp are ocean caught and fresh, but those truly fresh are hardly available outside of Louisiana, Texas, or Florida.

There are more than 1900 shrimp species and most fall into colour categories mentioned above.

Farmed shrimp raised in warm tropical waters off Nicaragua, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, look good but are soft in texture and offer little in taste.

White, ocean caught Gulf of Mexico shrimp are firm in texture and taste succulent, but rare and expensive.

The salinity of the seawater is a major contributor to taste.

Fishermen have managed to fish this huge Gulf to extinction.

Since shrimp is so popular in North America and people can afford to pay exorbitant prices, many Pacific Rim countries started farming this valuable commodity.

Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, are major suppliers to seafood restaurant chains that contract huge amounts at a fixed price. They can afford to advertise inexpensive shrimp meals and hold low prices for a long period.

The taste of farmed shrimp leaves a lot to be desired. In warm waters, shrimp grow fast, but the texture of the flesh is soft.

Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Guatemala are Latin America’s big producers.

St. Lawrence, or Matane salad shrimp are small and frozen but taste better than those big farmed, frozen, peeled and deveined.

Alaskan spot prawns in season are sweet and succulent but rarely, if ever, available outside the region.

Shrimp freeze better than fish. They have a protective, albeit thin shell, and are much smaller than any fish thus freeze faster, but they must be processed within minutes of the catch.

Peeled and deveined frozen shrimps are not recommended, but popular for parties, as are those breaded and frozen those just need deep-frying. The latter are processed using the least expensive, farmed shrimp, peeled and deveined, and breaded several times for bulk. If they are not transported properly or remain frozen for months on end, the taste is questionable at best.

Always peel and deveine shrimps properly. Most restaurants fail to do a good job.

Large shrimp cost more than those 26 – 30 count per pound. The size is not indicative of taste.

The best way to cook head on and sell on shrimp is to boiling in a boiling bouillon for two minutes (26 – 30 per pound count).

Cool and serve with a mayonnaise based sauce, or tossed in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper infused with chives or flat leaf parsley.

Grilling and pan frying shrimp requires attention. They only need a few minutes to exposure to heat.

Overcooked shrimp is rubbery.

Pair shrimp with an acid-driven wine like dry riesling, pinot gris from Alsace, sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, New Zealand, Canada, or California, or Sancerre, or dry prosecco from Veneto in Italy, or dry sparkling wines from Alsace, or the Loire Valley.


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