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Small Fish Making A Big Splash
Shrimp are one of the most popular seafood items all over the world. Appearing on tables covered by pearly white cloth or grimy red-and-white checkered paper, shrimp can serve as a versatile culinary tool that appeals to customers in tuxedos or T-shirts. Some chefs attribute shrimp's popularity to accessibility. Yet shrimp is endowed with an exotic status.

Chefs like shrimp because it grants them a freewheeling flexibility as well as a point of reference to ease diners' reservations about exotic dishes. Shrimp can add a nice texture to all kinds of dishes. It can upgrade a simple dish like pasta, or it can downgrade the intimidation factor of products like oxtails. They come in dozens of varieties and are served in thousands of different ways. They are not only delicious, but surprisingly healthy.

What is Shrimp?
Shrimps are primarily marine decapod crustaceans of the suborder Natantia, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. They are known to have a semitransparent body flattened from side to side and a flexible abdomen terminating in a fanlike tail. The appendages are modified for swimming, and the antennae are long and whiplike. Though shrimps are very similar to lobsters and crayfish but shrimp are swimmers rather than crawlers. They use the swimmerets on their abdomens to swim forward and their tail to move backward.

There are hundreds of shrimp species, most of which can be divided into two broad classifications-warm-water shrimp and cold-water shrimp. As a broad and general rule, the colder the water, the smaller and more succulent the shrimp. Shrimp come in all manner of

colors including reddish- to light brown, pink, deep red, grayish-white, yellow, gray-green and dark green. Some have color striations or mottling on their shells. Because of a heat-caused chemical change, most shrimp shells change color (such as from pale pink to bright red or from red to black) when cooked.

Shrimps though very small are huge in their appeal as these deliciously clean and crisp tasting crustaceans can be served hot or cold. It is a popular ingredient in appetizers, salads, chowders, and, of course, as a main dish. A wonderfully nutritious alternative to meat proteins, the firm, translucent, flesh of raw shrimp is low in calories and saturated fat. Luckily, it is available year-round. They are widely caught and cultivated for human consumption. While many countries farm raise shrimp, much of the world's supply comes from the United States, South and Central America, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan.
Etymological Background
The word shrimp has been derived from the Middle English shrimpe, meaning 'pygmy' or the crustacean itself. Shrimp harvesting was known as early as the seventeenth century in Louisiana, whos bayou inhabitants used seine nets up to two thousand feet in circumference. Only after 1917 did mechanized boats utilize trawl nets to catch shrimp.

Brief Historical Reference

People have been enjoying shrimp as a food ever since this beautiful crustacean appeared in the Earth's waters, basically since time immemorial.

In the 7th century, shrimp and other seafood composed the majority of the Chinese diet, and still does today. In 1280, Marco Polo commented on the abundance of seafood in Chinese marketplaces, including shrimp.
According to the food historians, both ancient Romans and Greeks had ready access to very large specimens and enjoyed their shrimp prepared many different ways. There abundant references to shrimps by Apicius (an ancient Roman author), Marital, Pliny the Younger, Ophelion in their writings describing their contemporary times.

During the ancient times, in the Mediterranean region, fishing was on an artisanal scale and almost everybody lived close to the water. According to available recorded historical evidence it is known that Greeks cooked them wrapped in fig leaves while the Romans made the finest grade of all their all-purpose sauce, liquamen, from shrimps.

Harvesting of shrimp dates back to the 17th century, where Louisiana bayou residents used seines up to 2,000 feet in circumference to scoop up the delicacy. Mechanized shrimping didn't come about until after 1917.

Nutritional Value of Shrimp
Shrimp are anything but small in their nutrient density. Shrimp are an excellent source of selenium and unusually low-fat, low-calorie protein -- a four ounce serving of shrimp supplies 23.7 grams of protein (that's 47.4% of the daily value for protein) for a mere 112 calories and less than a gram of fat. Shrimp are also a very good source of vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Shrimp is lean, high in protein, and free of carbohydrates which makes it an ideal food for today's health conscious consumer. Although shrimp is high in cholesterol, experts say it actually contributes to better ratios between LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). Studies show that shrimp also lowers triglycerides in the blood.

Selection of Shrimp
One must purchase shrimp from a store that has a good reputation for having a fresh supply.

The recipe one wants to cook as to whether one should buy fresh or frozen shrimp. Frozen shrimp offers the longest shelf life, as they are able to be kept for several weeks, whereas fresh shrimp will only keep for a day or two.

Fresh shrimp should have firm bodies that are still attached to their shells. They should be free of black spots on their shell since this indicates that the flesh has begun to break down. In addition, the shells should not appear yellow or gritty as this may be indicative that sodium bisulfate or another chemical has been used to bleach the shells.

Smell is a good indicator of freshness. It is recommended that before buying shrimp, one should smell the shrimp first. When smelled the shrimp should have a hint of sea aroma, and the shrimp should look clean and bright. It should never smell like ammonia or rotten eggs - that would mean the shrimp is old. Neither should it smell like chlorine - if it does then that would mean they were washed in chlorine to kill bacteria.

Storage of Shrimp
When storing shrimp, it is important to keep it cold since seafood is very sensitive to temperature. Therefore, after purchasing shrimp or other seafood, make sure to return it to a refrigerator as soon as possible. In case the shrimp is going to accompany one during a day full of errands, keep a cooler in the car where you can place the shrimp to make sure it stays cold and does not spoil.

The temperature of most refrigerators is slightly warmer than ideal for storing seafood. Therefore, to ensure maximum freshness and quality, it is important to use special storage methods so as to create the optimal temperature for holding the shrimp. One of the easiest ways to do this is to place the shrimp, which has been well wrapped, in a baking dish filled with ice. The baking dish and shrimp should then be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, which is its coolest area. Replenish ice one or two times per day. Shrimp can be refrigerated for up two days.

In order to extend the shelf life of shrimp by freezing it one should wrap it well in plastic and place it in the coldest part of the freezer where it will keep for about one month. And afterwards to defrost shrimp place it in a bowl of cold water or in the refrigerator. One must never thaw the shrimp at room temperature or in a microwave since this can lead to a loss of moisture and nutrients.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
Combine chopped shrimp with chopped scallions, tomatoes, diced chili peppers, garlic, lemon juice, and a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve this fragrant shrimp salad on a bed of romaine lettuce.
  • Serve cold cooked shrimp with salsa dip.
  • Cut up cooked shrimp and add it to vegetable soups.
  • Make a quick, easy and healthy version of pasta putanesca. Add cooked shrimp to spicy pasta sauce and serve over whole wheat noodles.
Global Shrimp Production
Shrimp production - that is capture and aquaculture - has expanded over the past decade. The world main shrimp producing country is China. This country is the mainly responsible for the strong increase in supply. The other three major shrimp producing countries - Indonesia, India and Thailand.
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