Getting near a creature colloquially referred to as a thumb splitter doesn’t precisely spark confidence. Let alone enjoying it as a meal. Nevertheless, as you tour the seven seas or rummage through your browser for recipes, you will come across several recipes involving these magnificent creatures. And if you are brave enough to engage in a battle many have known to win, then you can look forward to a tasty exotic dinner. Or you could just order takeout of the same.
While mantis shrimps are not considered a popular dinner choice in most parts of the world, the Asian continent is the largest predator they must contend with. So, the next time you are cautious about buying that mantis shrimp at the fish market or ordering it at your local restaurant, well, think again.
But should you and your loved ones gorge on these glass-smashing mantis prawns tucked away in burrows and crevices on coral reefs on the floor of the aquarium? Look no further. We took the liberty of finding the facts for you.
Mantis Prawns 101
Fun fact. The mantis shrimp is neither a praying mantis nor a prawn. It is also not the secret love child of both if you were musing like I was. So don’t be fooled by the name. They belong to the stomatopods family and are aggressive carnivores by nature, meaning they can inflict severe battle wounds if not handled with expert precision. So you should be very wary when intending to keep them as pets or become the next Chef Ramsey Gordon and prepare it yourself.
The mantis shrimp goes by various names. The ancient Assyrians referred to them as sea locusts. At the same time, the Australians named them prawn killers because they are feisty and pack quite a punch. The Thumb splitter is also a term frequently used, so don’t furrow your brow in confusion when you hear the word. Although there are about four hundred and fifty-six known species of mantis prawn, they are divided into only two types. This is solely based on their specialized front claws: the spearers and the smashers. And these brightly dressed knights are born to fight, so choose your battles carefully.
Most of the mantis shrimps have about 20 years and grow to an average length of about 4 inches. However, suppose you have a large appetite. In that case, you can consider indulging your taste buds in the giant mantis shrimp that comes in at a whopping 18 inches. They primarily feed on both soft-bodied and hard-bodied animals like shrimps, fish, worms, snails, and crabs, just toname a few. This extra nutrition contributes to what makes the mantis shrimp a tasty delight in Asian cuisine.
While the meat is sweet, tender, and delicious to boot, the exterior shell doesn’t help when it comes to the extraction process. But suppose you’ve ever enjoyed a lobster before at your corner restaurant or even at home. In that case, the “shako” has a similar taste.
Related: Pistol Shrimp vs Mantis Shrimp- All About Their Dissimilation
The Case for eating Mantis shrimps
While these aggressive crustaceans are a force to contend with, they form a significant part of Asian cuisine. And they are a delicious treat too. After cooking, the mantis shrimp tastes more like lobster than shrimps, with the meat being more tender than that of a cooked chicken lobster.
They can be boiled whole or eaten straight out of the shell depending on which cuisines your palate so desires. This is especially common in Japanese cuisine, where the mantis shrimp is eaten boiled as a sushi topping or even raw as sashimi. For easy access to the delicacy the mantis shrimp has to offer, you can split open the shell along the belly if you plan to serve it whole.
They are also not on the verge of extinction; thus, the budding population makes them safe for culinary delights. The mantis shrimps breed about 20 to 30 times during their lives and lay a gazillion eggs; hence are not considered an endangered species.
The Case against eating Mantis shrimps
These colorful marine crustaceans are born hunters. I don’t know about your preferences but having your dinner potentially injure you before you can cook it doesn’t get me salivating. Even the most seasoned fishermen who’ve lived their lives in the sea fear the “siriboa” caught in their fishing nets. They are even known to cause injuries to unsuspecting fishermen walking in shallow waters during the low tide.
The mantis shrimps also have a tough outer shell that isn’t easy to pry away before getting to the soft, tender meat encased inside. But hey, if you are up for the challenge, grab your thumb splitter today.
Did you also know that they contribute to the turnover and oxygenation of sediments? Amazing, right? The mantis shrimps live in burrows where the seabed is soft, and this burrowing action contributes to the habitability of the sea. Maybe think about that before considering wolfing down that mantis shrimp you’ve been eyeing.
They can also supposedly see around 12 bands of color compared to humans, who can only see partially three. This property has also made scientists deduce that these crusty crustaceans can see cancer cells. If that doesn’t scream revolutionary, I don’t know what does.
Last but not least, these fantastic creatures are sensitive to environmental pollutants hence are the perfect bioindicators of pollution on coral reefs. Therefore, they deserve to be protected, don’t you think?
How expensive is a mantis shrimp?
A mantis shrimp ranges from about $39 for those on the smaller side to about $129 for the larger ones. If you are making a dinner purchase of shrimps, the frozen, raw, peeled mantis shrimps cost about $13 per pound.
How to cook mantis shrimp?
If you consider adding mantis shrimps to your diet, you can simply just boil it. Too boring? Then you can go a notch higher by deep frying them with both chili and garlic, a common practice in the Asian culture.
To eat mantis, you should clean it perfectly before cooking. Then, you can roast this if you want. Check out the video below to instantly clean and roast mantis shrimp with salt.
How do you cook giant mantis shrimp?
Giant mantis shrimps are cooked just like you would regular mantis shrimps and other shrimps alike. Boil them, stew them or deep fry them in spices like garlic and chili. Of course, if you feel mighty lazy, you can also eat the meat raw and straight from the shell as sashimi.
To catch, clean and cook(Butter, Garlic, Corn) the giant mantis shrimp check this video from Miami, USA.
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To eat or not to eat? That is the million-dollar question. Mantis shrimps are delicious if word from reputable food bloggers and the Asian cuisine is anything to go by. While they may require a bit of pressure and expert handling to reach the inner core, the tantalizing taste is rewarding enough. Just ensure you take many precautions if you are thinking of braving the seas and handling a live thumb splitter.
One key fact to note is that some mantis shrimps grow unusually, especially in the contaminated waters of Ala Wai Canal of Waikiki. They can therefore pose more harm than good to your body when consumed.
Whether you decide to wolf down that mantis shrimp glimmering at the local fisher’s market or keep it as a pet, be confident in your choice. So, can you eat mantis shrimp? The answer is a definitive YES!