Most people use the words prawn and shrimp interchangeably, or think shrimps are small prawns and prawns are big shrimps. To add to the confusion, some countries use one or the other terminology almost exclusively. In the UK, Australia and Singapore, for instance, prawn is far more common but Americans prefer shrimp.
So, are shrimps and prawns the same thing?
Nope, not quite. Shrimps are shrimps, and prawns are prawns. The easiest way to differentiate them is by looking at their shells. The second segment of a shrimp, counting from the head, overlaps the first and third segment. In a prawn, the second segment overlaps only the third segment. Which means what we have in Singapore are prawns, which is what we call them. So, we're correct. Yeah!
Hong Kongers are very fond of noodles made with shrimp roe (蝦子麵). That's probably shrimp roe and not prawn because prawns don't brood eggs. They shed their eggs in the water where they develop independently. Sob! No prawn roe for us to feast on.
What about the most important thing? Is it prawns or shrimps that taste better? Good news! Both taste just as good. So long as they are fresh, they are scrumptious steamed, poached, pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried or grilled. Don't overcook them, though, or it would be better to have prawn or shrimp sashimi.
|Prawns with Red Fermented Beancurd|
Source: Xi Yan Cuisine, Jacky Yu
(For 6 persons)
600 g prawns
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1½ stalks spring onion, white part only, diced
2 small pieces or ½ big piece red fermented beancurd (南乳), plus 1 tsp pickling liquid
4½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp water
½ tbsp Shaoxing wine
pepper to taste
Shell prawns, reserving heads and tails. Devein, wash and dry with paper towels. Marinate with salt for 30 minutes.
Mix sauce ingredients till even and smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Heat oil in a wok and pan-fry prawns briefly on high heat till 60% done. Fry in two batches if necessary. Do not overcook. Remove to a plate once prawns turn red.
Add spring onions and fry till fragrant on medium heat. Add sauce and stir till it bubbles and thickens. Add prawns and stir briefly till evenly coated. Do not overcook. Plate and serve.