Kids love shrimps. I know that well. Several families come to Miyabi precisely because their children have fallen in love with ebi. Especially as tempura ebi. When I think about it, I realize how times have changed. I don’t remember ever eating shrimp as a child. What we could eat of the fish, it was at most carp for Christmas and fish fillets in frozen cubes often on Fridays. To check old times, I decided to look at the cookbook that my mother gave me, and which saved me in Japan from missing homesickness. Even at the age of twenty-one, when I became a housewife in Japan, I could not cook. The book is from 1957 and the title is – We cook healthy, tasty and economically. Editor ROH. Snails and crayfish are there, but I don’t see shrimp. In the alphabetical index, I can find blood with hail (krev s kroupami), blood soup (krevní polévka), and then there’s turkey (krůta). Shrimp (krevety) nowhere. They were probably also nowhere in the shops by then, so if listed in the book they would only be an unnecessary temptation. Imagine, it was a world without shrimp! My mother didn’t even prepare any meal from aubergine, because she did not know it, but the aubergine (lilek), as I verify now, can be found in my dear cookbook. In parentheses they state patlažan. Funny. That’s what is there. I thought it was baklažan correctly. Anyway, I had the honour of eating shrimp and eggplant and many other great ingredients first in the faraway Japan, because until I was twenty-one I was not even by the sea in Bulgaria. My first trip abroad was straight to Japan.
Better shrimp than iodine on a spoon!
I would definitely like shrimp from an early age, but instead of fish we got iodine on a spoon as children. Brrrr, the iodine wasn’t good. Now iodine is no longer commonly used and there are plenty of marine fish and other similar ingrediencies, but the question is whether people born earlier are used to eating them. Maybe not, and that would be bad for their health. Besides, they would miss a lot of joy. I am glad that ordering a fish lunch menu is more common in Miyabi than a meat menu, and I believe that my fellow citizens will eat fish more and more. The fish can be prepared very tasty and does not have an unpleasant smudge of fish at all. In fact, most of fish must not even have a fish twist. Especially with raw fish sashimi and sushi. You eat fish and it has a delicious delicate taste. Of course, shrimp also don’t smell like fish. They are easily digestible, have a pleasantly mild taste, contain relatively few calories and fats, and at the same time provide the necessary and high-quality protein. That’s probably why the kids love them so much.
I find on the Internet that shrimps can help with weight loss, good cardiovascular condition, resistance to allergic reactions and strengthen the immune system. Shrimp properties act against aging, deterioration of vision and hair loss, against osteoporosis and they are good for brain health. So that the brain is well perfused by oxygen and we can be of sharp mind. Shrimps also help with stress, which is always around. Shrimps can do all this because they contain minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, iodine, zinc, selenium, calcium, iron and sulphur. They have Omega 3 and an important vitamin B12. Also, vitamins A, E, D. You may argue that there may be mercury in shrimp, but I read that there is a greater risk in large fish than shrimp. And for purines, we have to be careful of that ourselves. It’s just never good to eat something huge quantity. You may argue that all those minerals can be obtained from plants because they are contained in the soil, but scientists point out that the agricultural land on the planet is very weak now and so, to be healthy, it is necessary to eat seafood. Glory that we in Czech are closer to the sea than in my childhood.
One may hesitate to eat shrimps by another perception, and that is an opinion that shrimps are strange small monsters. And squid and clams and oysters too. But I think it’s just a prejudice that makes it. If shrimps were so repulsive, the kids wouldn’t want them. I remember when – it was shortly after the Velvet revolution – a Czech government delegation arrived in Japan and at the reception the gentlemen did not have much to choose, because they did not want to eat the strange looking things from sea. Times have changed. It’s just a funny memory.
Don’t throw away shrimp heads! They are good for umami taste.
Shrimps are also wonderful actors, which can support the fifth basic taste called umami. It is an important taste for food to impose natural flavour so that we know what to eat and become satisfied and healthy. It is good to prepare a powder from shrimp heads, which is a valuable source of umami. Don’t throw shrimp heads away. It is better to cook them lightly, then smoke them lightly, even if only in a pot under the lid with a few sticks at the bottom of the pot, dry them well in a dryer or oven heated to 70 degrees C and finally grind to a powder. Then, when you mix shrimp powder with water from boiled potatoes, you get dashi, which will enhance the taste of umami in your dishes. Potato broth will provide you with the content of natural glutamates, and in order to be able to multiply the effectiveness, which is called umami synergy, you need the smoked shrimp powder. The powder adds nucleotides to the 1 + 1 = 8 synergy and the miracle is there. You get a dashi that resembles a Japanese seaweed dashi with katuobushi or shiitake mushrooms. This is recommended by Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbeak of the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen in theirbook Umami – Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste. It’s a long read, but I highly recommend it. I don’t know of any other really comprehensive book on umami than this one. Columbia University Press, New York, 2014.
Are shrimp ebi monsters or beautiful silhouettes of women?
I never perceived ebi shrimps as monsters, but I also did not perceive them as something beautiful, until today, when I found an Ebi design on the Internet and saw beautiful models of kind of ebi figure. I immediately remembered the elegant ladies at the Episcopal Church in Washington DC, where there was a large Nigerian community and where I worshipped for several years. Only now have I connected their beautiful clothes and decorative distinctive hats with shrimp.
By doing so I improved the image of shrimps besides the shrimps to eat, which alone remained in my mind in connection with the word ebi. It is a picture of sushi master Mr. Ebina, who worked in Miyabi for several years and left for us a valuable sushi know-how. We called him Mr. Shrimp (Krevetka). Ebi – shrimp (krevetka). He was a small, very stocky man with a thick neck and bald head. He was very hard emotionally. To this day, our chefs remember how difficult it was to endure under the leadership of this rough man. One chef buried his head in fresh sushi rice when Mr. Krevetka gave him a disciplinary slap.
There is something else that is very interesting about shrimps. They are monogamous. Did you know that? She and he are together for up to twenty years. And they both take care of their children, sharing half. Somehow, I wrongly imagined shrimps as if they are a lot of shrimps in one, a pile of nameless creatures that profile themselves only by how many centimetres they have. I must apologize to the shrimps, because the more I know about them and the more I think about them, the more I respect them. I have realized again that gastronomy is aboutkansha, that is, respect for the raw material.