Prawns are crustaceans and there are both freshwater and marine varieties. Most prawns are imported frozen into New Zealand although there is growing local supply.
So when you see “fresh” prawns they have generally been defrosted. Fresh prawns in many cases appear green or grey, and it is only when cooked, that the colour changes to what we recognise as “pink” prawns.
If you buy prawns or shrimps that are pink, this means they have been cooked.
To peel or not to peel
Many people believe cooking prawns with the shell on will enhance the flavour of the broth and result in more succulent meat. The downside is that they are a bit messier to eat.
To peel the prawns, you just need to wriggle them a little and ease off the shell, piece by piece. There is no big deal about cooking prawns with the head on, it is more a cultural thing about people not wanting to see the eyes.
The head pulls off easily if you twist it. The tip of the tail can be removed in the same way. A prawn is de-veined (has the intestinal tract removed) because many consider the prawn more attractive without the black line. It also removes the prawn’s stomach waste.
Like all seafood, prawns should be eaten as soon as possible and not left in the fridge for days.
How to peel a prawn
Step 1: Hold the body and twist off the head.
Step 2: Pull back the legs removing the centre section of the shell in the same motion. Peel back the shell.
Step 3: Squeeze the tail segment and gently pull to remove the tail if required.
Step 4: To de-vein use a sharp knife and make an incision along the back of the prawn through the vein. Pull out the vein. The prawn is now ready to fry, barbecue or poach.