Super savory and spiky: mantis shrimp, and how to cook it

Mantis Shrimp

A mantis shrimp is a marine crustacean known for its striking appearance and predatory abilities.

These creatures, belonging to the order Stomatopoda, thrive in shallow, tropical and subtropical marine environments.

With around 520 known species, mantis shrimps use their powerful raptorial claws to capture prey, which they can spear, stun, or dismember. Their unique adaptations and behaviors make them a subject of interest for marine enthusiasts and researchers alike.

Whether cooked or raw, mantis shrimp offer a unique flavor profile that seafood enthusiasts can appreciate!

In what countries can you buy them?

These fascinating and colorful marine crustaceans find their way onto dinner plates in various countries.

In the Mediterranean, the Squilla mantis species is a common seafood, especially along the Adriatic coasts and the Gulf of Cádiz.

In Japan, the Japanese mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria) is known as shako and is enjoyed as sushi.

Mantis shrimp are also eaten in Vietnamese, Cantonese, Filipino, Hawaiian and Mediterranean cuisines.

We ate mantis shrimp in Hong Kong, and in Venice before!

Can mantis shrimp hurt you?

Yes, mantis shrimps can indeed hurt people!

Their striking force has earned them the nickname “thumb splitters,” as they can cause painful gashes if handled carelessly by humans.

These marine crustaceans have powerful raptorial claws that they use to capture prey. Their powerful claws can cause serious injury if not handled properly, their claws can cause painful wounds.

Are mantis shrimp good to eat?

Certainly!

Mantis shrimp are indeed edible, although they are not commonly consumed in many countries. Their taste has been described as a delightful blend of seafood and vegetable flavors. When cooked, mantis shrimp have tender meat with a slightly sweet taste, reminiscent of langoustines or lobster. The overall effect is like enjoying a refreshing, light meal, perfect for a summer day.

These intriguing crustaceans can be prepared in various ways, including steaming, frying, stir-frying, and grilling. Their small size means there isn’t a lot of meat to eat.

Whether cooked or raw, mantis shrimp offer a unique flavor profile that seafood enthusiasts can appreciate.

Check our very own recipe below!

Can you eat mantis shrimp raw?

While these shrimp can definitely be eaten raw, it is essential to exercise caution.

Their meat is tender and sweet, similar to lobster, making it suitable for sashimi or ceviche. However, consuming raw mantis shrimp carries some risks.

These crustaceans may harbor parasites or bacteria, so it is advisable to freeze them at -20°C (-4°F) for a few days to kill any potential pathogens. Additionally, ensure that the shrimp is super fresh and sourced from clean waters.

If you decide to try it raw, enjoy this delicacy with soy sauce, wasabi or other accompaniments!

Should you prep and clean mantis shrimp for cooking?

There are 2 ways to do that.

You either leave them as they are, or cut them open using a pair of sharp kitchen shears. If you are going to eat them raw, you will have to do this anyway to get the meat out.

First, use a pair of sharp kitchen shears to remove the head. Next, trim off the legs and gills. Then, carefully trim the telson (tail fan) at an angle. Afterward, cut off the uropod (the small tail fin) and continue removing the sides with the sharp points.

With the shrimp upside down, gently peel off the bottom shell. Finally, extract the mantis shrimp’s body from the top shell.

We prefer to keep them whole, you have to admit that they look spectacular!

But be cautious when cracking the mantis shrimp open after cooking because their sharp points can be quite painful at times! We often use a pair of scissors as well while eating, some can be very tough to open.

How to cook mantis shrimp?

Eating fresh mantis shrimp can be a delightful experience, especially if you appreciate seafood.

Whether you choose to grill them with olive oil and herbs, stir fry them with garlic and ginger, deep fry them with a light batter, or steam them gently with white wine and lemon, the key is to preserve their delicate taste.

For the adventurous, thinly sliced mantis shrimp can be enjoyed as sashimi, paired with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.

Just remember to handle them carefully when removing the shell, as their sharp claws can cause injury.

Check our recipe next!

RECIPE

Olive Oil & Garlic Fried Mantis Shrimp

Here’s our personal delightful recipe for mediterranean fried mantis shrimp that we made in Venice. It combines the freshness of mantis shrimp with the rich flavors of olive oil and garlic.

This recipe is for whole shrimp. If you cut them open first and use the meat only, it only needs 2 minutes of cooking on both sides in the garlic oil to become tender.

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 12 fresh mantis shrimp (not cleaned)
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • pepper
  • salt

Method

In a clean non stick pan or griddle pan warm the olive oil over medium heat and gently fry minced garlic (without burning) until fragrant.

Add the mantis shrimp to the pan, season with pepper and salt to taste.

Cook the shrimp for 5 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another 4 minutes on the other side.

Check the seasoning, add extra pepper or salt to taste.

We love to serve these pan fried shrimp with a crisp green salad (or when in Venice with lemony agretti), and some crunchy grilled bread on the side.

For the perfect wine pairing here, we suggest to enjoy this dish with a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio.

Bon appétit!

Mantis Shrimp

What is a good substitute for mantis shrimp if I can’t find any?

There are a few options that can provide a similar taste and texture.

Prawns are often considered a suitable alternative because they share similarities in taste and texture with shrimp. Prawns are larger than shrimp and have a slightly sweeter flavor, but they can be used in similar recipes and cooked in the same way.

Another excellent choice is lobster, which has comparable textures and flavors. Lobster meat can be used in recipes that call for shrimp, such as shrimp scampi or shrimp cocktail.

Additionally, scallops are a great substitute as well. They share a sweet and mild flavor, making them versatile ingredients for various dishes.

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