Eating shrimp heads becoming more popular

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Shrimp usually shows up on your plate denuded of its shell for ease of eating, although we’re still not sure why people leave the tails on there. But a recent piece in Nation’s Restaurant News, there’s a growing trend of antennae-to-tail dining. The piece is titled: “The eyes, and antennae, have it, as customers try head-on shrimp.”

It’s an interesting story, and one that illustrates our country’s tilt towards eating animal that looks like animal (as opposed to chicken breast neatly packaged on a tray). In the story, NRN quotes Cathy Whims, chef and owner of Nostrana in Portland, Oregon, who tells the publication: “We really cherish them. Even if you’re simply sautéing them, you get a deep and complex flavor.”

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The most interesting statistic in the piece: “Case shipments of headed, tail-off shrimp from foodservice distributors to independent restaurants and small chains grew by 119 percent,” over the past year. Head-off, shell-on shipments were flat. Perhaps diners aren’t actually eating shrimp heads, maybe chefs are presenting it as an aesthetic element. But even the choice to display whole shrimp in its frightening Cretaceous-era glory feels... different. In a good way.

We can understand eating heads of anything may freak people out. But since you’re a reader of The Takeout, you’ve likely got an open mind. Some of the most delicious bites we’ve had involves eating the whole head—eyeballs, brains, shell and all. We’ve been to sushi restaurants where the chef serve us a whole prawn’s head, deep fried to a crackle, that tasted like a sweet and creamy seafood kettle-fried potato chip. As for boiled and steamed shrimp? It just might be a bit tough to work through the shell, but we’re happy to be proven wrong.

We’ll just say, for the record, that The Takeout endorses this trend. Brains are essentially the creamiest, fattiest part of an animal (crazy high in cholesterol, though), and that usually translates to deliciousness.

Read more about eating head-on shrimp over at Nation’s Restaurant News.

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About the author

Kevin Pang

Kevin Pang was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace on Netflix.