Monday, April 25, 2011

Mantis Shrimp -- An exotic delicacy?



Do not be deceived by its fugly appearance.

I'll never ever forget when I first sank my teeth into its flesh; that epic moment where my eyes opened so wide & felt I've never been so fortunate to eat something like this!

This is probably one of the juiciest, sweetest seafood I've tasted all my life, an exotic delicacy fit for emperors-- The Mantis Shrimp


It was such a rare catch that only 8 were caught coincidentally at a Kelong. Out of these 8, pathetically 3 were prepared to be served on the table.

Papa Chia had specially requested his good friend to save it for Sis and I, which I was extremely thankful for. From what I know, except for his good friend who caught them, no one else who sat at the table had eaten the Mantis Shrimp all their lives; not even after living for more than half of their lives. Everyone was equally fascinated & curious as I was when the Mantis Shrimps were taken out from the bag.


The Mantis Shrimps are dangerous and cunning predators which secrete themselves in holes within living rocks. Appearing with a variety of different colours from shades of brown to bright neon colours, they are so intelligent that they would not usually find its way to the same entrance via that same way. If their first attempt of getting caught proves unsuccessful, they can avoid being caught again by slipping from one location to the other. Traps usually don't work on them as they seldom come out of their homes; hence poorly understood even though they are one of the most important predators in their habitat. They will attack whatever is edible passing their range for food: prawns, clams, mussels, corals, tiny fishes etc.

Depending on the species(about 400 being described worldwide), they grew up to a range between 5-30cm long. I think what I ate was considered really big. Not forgetting to mention, the Mantis shrimp is a relative of the crabs.


They are referred to as 'thumb splitters' because of their ability of damaging human thumbs & fingers if handled incautiously.

They have 2 types of claws- smashers and spearers. As named, these claws either smash through shells of molluscs or stab fishes & prawns at top speed. In other words, even though it has only striked once, the prey will experience a double hit. So even if the mantis shrimp misses its target with its initial hit, a high possibility is that the prey will still be killed or stunned by the resulting shock wave.

Uncle told me, "if the claws hit you i tell you, your blood will 'phish' out non-stop."

Some of these species(must be the bright neon coloured ones) are kept as pets at home and fed with river shrimps. They are usually kept in acrylic aquariums and easily maintained as pets. Bear in mind not to put your fingers into the water though- the 'phish' issue, remember?

For others, we serve it as a delicacy. You can steam, boil, stew, barberque, skew, grill or even fry it. There are many dish names for the Mantis Shrimps in different cruisines:

The Phillippines: tatampal, hipong-dapa or alupihang-dagat,eaten like shrimps
Vietnam: tôm tít or tôm tích, used with pepper + salt + lime, fish sauce + tamarind or fennel
Cantonese: "Pissing Shrimp" (攋尿蝦)
Japanese: boil and eat as a sushi topping or as sashimi known as Shako(蝦蛄).
Meditarrenean countries: Squilla Mantis




More like lobsters & crabs, the shell of the Mantis Shrimp requires some pressure to crack. Uncle recommended scissors to cut along the sides after it is being cooked.



Taste: The flesh is really Q and bouncy in your mouth, like that of calamari. It tastes 10x sweeter than drunken prawns and the texture is similar to that of the lobster, but the flesh is more tender.

Arghhh I'm not a seafood fan but I really, really, really love this!!!

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