Shrimp and prawns, often a topic of confusion, share a similar biological trait—they are both decapods, a type of crustacean characterized by having ten legs.
Shrimp, generally smaller in size, inhabit saltwater environments. When distinguishing shrimp, there are subtle yet distinctive features to look for. Shrimp typically possess claws on two of their legs, and their shell’s second segment overlaps the first and third segments, resulting in a noticeable bend in their body shape—a feature worth noting while selecting seafood.
Prawns, on the other hand, thrive in fresh or slightly salty (brackish) water, often dwelling near the bottom. These crustaceans feature claws on three of their legs, visible in unpeeled seafood. Their shell segments overlap along their abdomen, with the first segment overlapping the second, and the second overlapping the third, resulting in less curvature in their body.
A practical rule to differentiate between the two lies in their size, as prawns are generally larger than shrimp. When dealing with unpeeled crustaceans, examining the shell offers clarity. If the second segment overlaps the first and third segments, it’s a shrimp. Conversely, if the segments overlap along the abdomen, it’s a prawn.
Regarding taste, there are no significant flavor disparities between prawns and shrimp, although some prawns may offer a slightly sweeter taste. Shrimp commonly tend to be more budget-friendly compared to prawns, so splurging on prawns might not necessarily offer a notably distinct taste in your shrimp boil.
While the biological distinctions between shrimp and prawns are intriguing, the taste and quality of your purchase are more likely to be influenced by the seafood’s diet, habitat, and origin. Opting for wild-caught seafood is preferable, considering that most farmed seafood originates from regions with limited regulations.