About PrawnsPrawns are decapod (ten-legged) crustaceans from the sub-order Dendrobranchiata. They are ancient creatures, spanning over 570 species in seven families with a fossil record extending back to the Devonian period. They differ from other similar crustaceans such as shrimp because of the branching of their gills and of the fact that prawns do not brood their young; instead, they release their eggs into the water. Prawns can grow to immense sizes, with some of the largest representatives being 13 inches long and up to a pound in weight. Prawns are widely fished and farmed for human consumption.
Shrimp and Prawns
Biologically speaking, shrimp and prawns are members of different suborders of Decapoda but they are different in appearance. Commercial farms and fisheries use the term 'shrimp' and 'prawn' interchangeably, making it confusing for potential consumers to differentiate between the two.
In the United Kingdom, the term 'prawn' appears on menus more than 'shrimp' while in North America, the opposite is true. 'Prawn' is also used as a catch-all term for any large shrimp, especially those that come fewer than 15 to a pound; some terms seen in markets include 'king prawns' and 'jumbo shrimp.' Australia and other Commonwealth nations go even farther and use the term 'prawn' extensively.
Seafood is a booming economy unto itself and Dendrobranchiata make up a large part of it. Some countries, like the United States, rely almost exclusively on fisheries but other countries have concentrated on aquaculture (shrimp farms). Ecuador boasts a 95% farmed production rate and some countries produce similar amounts from both fisheries and aquaculture, including Mexico, China, India and Indonesia.
The most important species for aquaculture are the Kuruma prawn, Chinese prawn, giant tiger prawn and whiteleg prawn.
Prawns encountered in fish markets and regular grocery stores usually are cost prohibitive because of their size. However, they can be cooked and introduced in dishes that would require a smaller size of shrimp. They can be marinated, pan fried, grilled, roasted, served hot or cold, served over pasta, used in salads or just about any application. Consider serving only 3 to 4 prawns per person because of their size.
Prawns are an excellent alternative to other heavy animal proteins. They are low in calories and saturated fat. They are high in cholesterol, but keep in mind that the amount of cholesterol does NOT affect overall blood cholesterol levels - the amount of bad saturated fats does.
Prawns are a source of high levels of tryptophan, selenium, protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. They provide in lesser amounts iron, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B3 (niacin), zinc, copper and magnesium.