June 29, 2008

Ama Ebi (Sweet Shrimp/甘エビ

I bought a pack of ama ebi the other day. They were not imported ones but domestic ones from Hokkaido, and were plump and had roe on their bellies.
The formal name for this species of shrimp is hokkoku aka ebi in Japanese, but the term ama ebi (lit. sweet shrimp) is widely used in Japan. In Niigata, the term nanban ebi is often used.

Before serving, I removed the heads, rinsed them in water, put them in a pot of water, and brought them to a boil. Great miso soup the next morning.


Anonymous said...

Do you remove the heads all the time? Or did you just decide to use them in something else? I always thought in Asia shrimp is generally served with the head attached.

Hiroyuki said...

Cheap, imported ama ebi are usually beheadded before being shipped to Japan, so you have no choice. I think that in Japanese restaurants, they often serve ama ebi and other species of shrimp with heads intact to prove that they are fresh ones. In tempura restaurants, they behead kuruma ebi before tempura'ing them, and serve the heads as kara age.
I knew that my children would have difficulty removing the heads themselves, and I wanted to use the heads in miso soup the next morning. That's why I beheaded them before serving.
By the way, the ama ebi were very good! So was the ama ebi head miso soup!

Anonymous said...

Are these shrimps naturally sweet? like the ones on nigiri-zushi?

My mom also likes to make a delicious broth with shrimp heads. Though she always remove a little "package" that is inside the head, cause she says it's rather toxic.

Oh, by the way in reply to your comment. My top page looks a little strange, that is probably right. I started blogging just a few days ago and I am very new with it. That's why there aren't many posts yet. Sorry for the confusion. :)

Hiroyuki said...

Thanks for your comments, momocha. (You have two different names?)
Ama ebi are naturally sweet. To be more precise, the protein inside them is decomposed into amino acids, which the human taste buds sense as sweet. The decomposition takes some time, and that's why the freshest ama ebi are not the sweetest. You savor the texture of fresh ama ebi one day and the flavor the next day.

Toxic? I have to start searching for information about the toxicity.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for explaining about the ama ebi. That is really interesting. Here in the Netherlands it is hard to buy fresh prawns. Frozen ones are most of the time even better.

About the shrimp heads, that is something what my mom had taught me, so it's something that we do automatically without thinking. Never thought about it to check the information on the net. I hope there is some more information about it.

Strange, it should be displaying my name than my site name. I just found out why, I think the new layout is blocking the display of the real name so it automatically refers to the site name. I can't seem to fix this. Sorry again.
I go by the name Poeh.

David said...

I once stir-fried some warabi--without removing the toxins. I had no idea that you had to do so. About 3 hours after eating them, I became terribly sick. I vomited all night. I didn't go to the hospital or take medicine. I just let it get out of my system.

Hiroyuki said...

Thanks for your comments, David. Are warabi that toxic?? They do contains a cancer-causing substance, though. Some or most of it can be removed with the process called akunuki (harshness removal). Removing harshness (and the substance) completely is not a good idea because the resultant warabi would be tasteless.
Anyway, it's good to know that you are still alive!

Towkay said...


old post of yours i know , but i just noticed that the amaebi from japan looks EXACTLY like the maine shrimp we get here on the east coast of the united states. they are super sweet and usually very small. how do they serve them in japan? sashimi?

Hiroyuki said...

Towakay: They are very close, but not exactly the same. In Japan, amaebi are usually eaten as sashimi. There are some interesting thread on eGullet on maine shrimp. I think I'll provide links when eGullet goes online again.

Hiroyuki said...

eGullet is now online again! Here is one link:
You can go to other main shrimp threads from this thread. Enjoy!

Hiroyuki said...

And, here is another thread, started by me.
where I posted some photos of amaebi, with some brief description.

Towkay said...


so it seems the same eureka moment dawned upon you back then!

They are incredibly delicious but unfortunately my countrymen prefer frozen mass farmed shrimp. There is also fresh wild shrimp from the gulf of mexico which are different pale yellow shell with red feet, usually large and heavy taste of iodine which i love but my wife hates.

These shrimp are not well received here, for people risking their lives fishing for them in the arctic sea they only fetch 5usd a pound. They are also very fragile, and go bad very easily. I didn't know they were precooked. They do get tough when recooked, i'll do the sashimi from now.