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May I eat your shrimp shells?

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Shrimp shells are served as crispy appetizers in Japan. You can buy tiny dried whole crabs to use as peanuts. I was coerced into trying and will be back for more!

When the teppanyaki chef handed me the grilled empty shrimp shells I knew I couldn't refuse to taste it. We had been wondering for a while what he was doing with those huge empty shells, now that we had eaten the good and only edible part of the shrimp. But he kept fiddling with it on the grill, a drop of oil, then some batter, flatten with the knife. And then he handed us the shells with a smile.

Tokyo Imperial Hotel's teppanyaki is one of the city's best, and we felt lucky to be allowed to book. Not a place where you'd want to offend the chef, who cooks for you and you only right across the bar for an entire hour. So we ate the shells. They explode into a million tiny little iodized flakes the minute you close your mouth. Very tasty in fact. And extremely crispy.

One of the many intriguing delicacies sold in Tokyo's department stores food marts are boxes crackers whose composition no tourist can hope to understand. Not that they would want to. I managed to recognize the flattened shape of a grilled and dried in-the-shell shrimp.

Some boxes are more forthcoming as to how it's made:

Japanese airports sell loads of strange snacks for soon-to-be-homesick Japanese travellers. I bought a large bag of tiny little dried crabs. With their shells on.

I'm not sure about what the yellow bubbles on the shells are, and I don't want to know. But if you are in Japan, you have to try the in-the-shells shrimps at least once.


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  • #1
  • Comment by Joe
I was kinda wondering about eating shells of shrimp because i recently found on accident that I liked it. Kinda weird to think they have been doing it in Japan for a long time.
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
You can also eat soft-shell crabs like they do in Kerala (India). It is quite good in fact!
  • #3
  • Comment by Beatrice
Texture,freshness, and the element of surprise is very important in Japanese cuisine. I love the crispy rice puffs that pop inside your mouth...and I miss the big Japantown in San Francisco where I could get such things.
  • #4
  • Comment by Hova
Those bubbles arise from the flash frying method used when preparing the crabs - they're not barnacles, or anything like that, if you were worried!  :)
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
Hova, you finally put me to rest about these bubbles, they look very worrying as you eat a pack of crabs!
  • #6
  • Comment by Axion
The ball things might be these mini rice crackers they roll some treats in.
In-the-shell shrimp are DELICIOUS; so are the big prawns.  I've made bone-crackers -- slow-frying fish skeletons.  Yummy.
  • FX's answer→ Yes, but they take some getting used to!

  • #9
  • Comment by marian
really this is kind of funny to me, you see all my life at this grand age of 58 I have always enjoyed eating the tell of the shrimp, and really this article little did I know the true benefits of eating part of the shell, ummmm
  • #10
  • Comment by Zazil Camet
In Mexico, we eat whole dried shrimps as appetizers, with lemon and chili pepper. They are so crispy, and the flavour is strong and salty. We also cook delicious soups and broths with dried shrimps, a lot of seafood restaurants offers "caldo de camarón" dry shrimp´s broth with diced vegetables like carrots and potatos.  
  • FX's answer→ I will make sure to try and find this! Thanks for the tip, Zazil.

  • #12
  • Comment by juliadiets.com
Some Chinese shrimp dishes like the spicy garlic shrimp is served with the shell still on but head removed. Since the shell was on during cooking, the seasoning is all over it.
  • FX's answer→ But do they eat the shells?

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