Shrimp: The Perfect Companion For Fried Rice

Out of the countless delicious dishes of Asian cuisine, one of the best known —if not the best known— is fried rice. Practically every country in East and Southeast Asia has its own version of this dish. It has become so popular since the last century that other regions of the globe where rice cultivation has spread—especially Africa and Latin America—have adopted fried rice as part of their national cuisines.

Delicious leftovers

The origin of fried rice is very humble and at the same time very practical. This dish was born from the need to take advantage of both uneaten cooked rice and other leftovers from a previous meal, when it was not possible to refrigerate food, and the harshness of life did not allow even a grain of rice to be wasted.

By mixing the uneaten cooked rice with other leftovers from meat, fish or vegetable dishes, and by frying the whole mixture to make it edible and palatable again, the first version of fried rice was created. The principle that rules its preparation was thus founded—the joining together of heterogeneous ingredients.

Depending on the recipe and the personal taste of each diner, fried rice can be prepared with vegetables, eggs, red or white meat, or fish. One of the most appreciated and consumed versions of fried rice is fried rice with seafood, and among the most used seafood are shrimps. If you want to read a delicious recipe of fried rice with shrimp, you may visit

More than 2,500 species

Shrimps belong to the great phylum of Arthropods, which includes all animals with “jointed-appendages”, mainly arachnids, insects and crustaceans. Shrimps are crustaceans (from Latin crusta ‘crust, shell’) or shellfish, like lobsters, crayfish, and crabs, and have diversified into more than 2,500 species. The smallest species are no longer than a third of an inch (a few millimeters), while the largest shrimps reach about 8 inches (20 centimeters). The largest ones are often called “prawns”.

Shrimps and prawns are distinguished from other crustaceans by their slender, somewhat transparent appearance, laterally flattened bodies, long whip-like antennae, and fan-like tails.

Some species of shrimp live in the sea, others in fresh water. Most are omnivorous. Several are scavengers or feed on parasites that infest other aquatic animals.

The most caught and farmed

Of the more than two thousand species of shrimp and prawns known to science today, only about twenty are of commercial importance and usually used for human consumption. Shrimps are the most caught shellfishes in wild waters and the most cultivated in aquatic farms for food and industrial purposes.

The body of shrimps, like that of other typical crustaceans, is divided into two clearly distinguishable parts— the cephalothorax, commonly called “head”, and the abdomen, which people call “tail”. Shrimp tail is, nowadays, the most appreciated part in seafood gastronomy, as well as the healthiest, since it is not only more digestible, but also more heavy-metal free. We should remember that toxic heavy metals tend to accumulate in sea animals because of global pollution.

Although small pink shrimps are the most commonly used for preparing fried rice and other Asian dishes, there are other available species, which are also delicious and go well with fried rice.

Shrimp can be purchased fresh or frozen, depending on the needs and tastes of cooks and diners.

How to clean shrimp

Many of the shrimp available in supermarkets have already been cleaned—i.e. with head, legs, shell, and “vein” removed. However, if you prefer to use fresh shrimp and clean them yourself to be sure of their freshness, you should proceed as follows:

  1. Wash the shrimp under running water.
  2. If the animals still have heads and legs, cut them off with a knife. Keep the abdomens or tails.
  3. With the help of the knife, remove the shell from the tails, making a longitudinal cut on the back. This will make it easier to peel them.
  4. Wash the tails under running water to remove the remains of the shell.
  5. With the knife, again make a longitudinal cut in the dorsal part of the tails, and with the help of a thinner knife or a toothpick, cut off the dark vein This vein is actually the digestive tract (guts) of the animal—there may be feces in it. Therefore, it should be removed for hygienic reasons.
  6. Re-wash the deveined tails with water.
  7. Dry them with paper towels.

How to pre-cook shrimp

For convenience and hygiene, it is preferable to pre-cook raw shrimp before using them as an ingredient in fried rice or any other dish that requires seafood.

To pre-cook shrimp easily, do the following:

  1. Pour water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. The water should be enough to cover the shrimp completely.
  2. Once the water starts to boil, put in the shrimp. If you like, add a little salt.
  3. Let the shrimp boil for 20-30 minutes, depending on their size, until they become firm and pink/white. Check every 10 minutes.

That’s it! You now have your pre-cooked shrimp. You can use them immediately to prepare fried rice or any other dish you like.

Attention: Do not boil tails for more than 30 minutes, or they will start to fall apart in the water. Unintentionally you will make shrimp “soup” instead!

You can also put pre-cooked shrimp in your freezer for the following days. Remember not to store them for too long, because, even frozen, they can lose their good flavor and firmness.

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