Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Saturday, November 30, 2013

~ Fresh-Water ~ Shrimp, River Prawns, Langostino, and Crayfish

Why does it seem so confusing?

It can be greatly confusing, especially in places where cultural diversity is a way of life. Costa Rica embraces a great number of cultures, and every one of them contributes to the tropical cuisine experience.

It is somewhat normal to have a “where am I” experience when we try to buy seafood in Costa Rica and/or order from the restaurant menu. Many times we end up feeling a little disappointed and confused when we are sold or served something we do not recognize as the ‘fresh water shrimp’ we have been expecting to enjoy.
I think it is important to acknowledge that the same delicious crustacean can be known
by several different names in different parts of the world, and to make matters a little more complicated, the same name can be given to different variations of the species. That rather explains why is almost impossible to lift the veil of confusion all at once.

To begin with, the terms' shrimp and prawn originated in Great Britain.
Shrimp is applied to smaller species. The word prawn is never given to the very small species, but always applied to most of the larger forms.

There are some exceptions in Australia, where small species are called prawns, and some prawn-like crustaceans are referred as shrimps.
Nevertheless, it is fair to say: that most commonly, shrimps are the small crustaceans with a length of three inches or less, often found in shallow waters and caught by net. Prawns can be as large as twelve inches long, and sometimes harvested by trapping and trawling.  
Interestingly enough, in the United States the term shrimp is used for almost all species, including the most commercially attractive. The word prawn is not very common, and it usually applies specifically to large shrimp living in freshwater.

Even though sometimes the freshwater prawns and the saltwater shrimp, look very similar, and even their texture is alike, the freshwater prawns don’t have the strong flavor of the saltwater shrimp.
River prawns have a fresher taste, and their bodies absorb any type of marinade in a manner of minutes. It is a real treat!
Here in Costa Rica, we have the variety of fresh water shrimp (Macrobrachium carcinus) also known as langostino de río, camarón de río, or camarón de agua dulce, and it is one of the largest freshwater shrimp of the east coast of the Americas, it is commercially fished in certain parts of the region.
In exceptional cases, after several years of growth, the adult M. carcinus can reach up to 18 inches (45.7 centimeters) in length and may weigh up to 1 pound (.45 kilograms).
Langostino or River prawns come in different shapes and colors. The average langostino is never larger than 15 cm; the body is long and slender with a big head and protruded eyes. Their abdomen is somewhat flat, and the most common color is pale pink. It has 10 legs; the first three pairs resemble a pincher, and the last pair has some sort of nail. Their antennas are quite long.

Farming fresh-water shrimp or river prawns has been a growing practice in many countries, before the year 2000, the only species farmed was the giant river prawn, marobrachium resenbergii; currently, there are around 200 species of the genus' marobrachium living in the tropical and subtropical climates of many countries and continents except Europe and Antarctica.

The river prawn (marobrachium resenbergii) is known for it large size. Depending on
the climate, it can have blue or orange claws, blue, brown, or gray bodies.
They have 10 legs; the second pair of equal size legs is the biggest and has a pincher. Its head is as big with stalked eyes. It has two sets of antennas, the second larger than the first.

Species of the freshwater prawn are distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical zones of the world. They are found in most of the inland freshwater areas, including lakes, rivers, swamps, irrigation ditches, canals and ponds, as well as in estuarine areas. Some species prefer rivers containing clear water, while others are found in extremely turbid conditions.

Now, let’s talk about the Crayfish; many people believe it to be the same than the River prawns; however, it is not. It is a little confusing, and to make it more puzzling; these creatures are also called crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs, and even freshwater lobsters, since somehow they are related to the lobster.

Crayfish is technically a decapod crustacean, related to lobsters, and crabs. 

Crayfish is found in lakes, streams, and rivers, just like the fresh water prawns and langostinos.

Keep in mind; however, that the crayfish in other countries around the world is probably a different species, and may have quite distinct habits.

“Prawns” andshrimps” are pretty much the same; the only biological difference is that
prawns have their second abdominal flap (counting from the head towards the tail) overlapping the first and the third. And "Crayfish" and "crawfish" are names given to both of those freshwater crustaceans.
At the end, prawns, crayfish, and shrimp seem to share similar space and identity.

Hopefully, this will help you to see the difference where there seems to be only similarities. One thing I can tell you for sure, when you taste it, you will experience the difference.

Enjoy Costa Rica and its Seafood Gifts. 


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