Shrimp & Prawns – No Small Fry in Flavor – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


I admit it. I love shrimp. Grilled, shish-kebobed, steamed or sauteed they’re all delicious. I especially favor the sweet flavor and firm texture of wild net-caught shrimp. Farm raised and frozen shrimp is available in supermarkets year-round but the more flavorful wild variety is especially plentiful during the late spring and summer. Now is a good time to find them in seafood markets while there is a bountiful supply.

Though unfashionably high in cholesterol (about 20 grams of it in each extra-large shrimp), shrimp is surprisingly low in fat overall. A serving of shrimp actually has only about one-third the total fat of the widely publicized lean-queen of meats, skinless chicken. I try to eat healthy, but every now and then I just have to indulge in some tasty shrimp…. to heck with the cholesterol!

Now that the weather is warm, I like grilling shrimp on kabob skewers laced alternately with bell pepper chunks. Steamed small shrimp are delicious when added to a green salad and tossed with some chopped black olives and a bit of dried herbs. Shrimp cooked along with some fresh chives in a little olive oil makes a wonderful and simple summer dish when served with barbecued corn.

Here is a luscious shrimp dish adapted for bladder-friendliness from a recipe by Mayi Brady (Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2000). Rice pilaf or crusty french bread partner well with the shrimp and pungent herbs.

Gulf Coast Shrimp

– serves 6

  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons margarine
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  1. Defrost the shrimp under warm water a few minutes if frozen, otherwise just rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the pepper, onion salt, thyme, allspice and rosemary in a small dish or resealable plastic bag. Rub the spices into the shrimp, then seal the shrimp and spices in the plastic bag and refrigerate about 30 to 45 minutes. Melt the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic, stirring until tender, about a minute. Add the shrimp and spices to the garlic and cook, turning the shrimp until pink and thoroughly cooked about 3 minutes.

Tips for Buying Shrimp

To be sure your shrimp is bladder-safe and top-quality (the only kind you’d want to eat) it’s important to buy from a reputable merchant. You don’t want shrimp caught in polluted waters or that which is old and on its way to spoiling. Whether you buy it fresh or frozen, in a package or by the pound, shrimp shouldn’t smell fishy.

Some species develop unappetizing-looking black spots when exposed to air and worse yet, the safety and quality can suffer quickly if shrimp isn’t properly chilled. Many merchants or fishermen will treat the shrimp with a solution of bladder-provoking sulfites or phosphates to prolong its salability and fresh appearance. If a sign isn’t posted, be sure to ask. By U.S. law consumers are supposed to be warned about added sulfites, and regulations require that the phosphate solution can’t exceed 10 percent. But it pays to ask. A little paranoia can go a long way too in preventing bladder symptom flare-ups. Even if the shrimp are excellent quality and supposed to be preservative- free, I always wash them under running cold water before cooking, just to be super-safe. I’ve never suffered a flare-up from preservatives on shrimp.

Buying fresh or quick-frozen just-off-the-boat shrimp gets you flavor at its peak, and its best to eat them the same day. If you can’t, and must freeze them at home, here is a glaze that helps preserve any kind of frozen fish or seafood and washes off easily when its time to prepare dinner: combine a quarter-cup of lemon juice and 1-3/4 cups of water in a saucepan. Scoop out about half a cup of the mixture and dissolve a package of unflavored gelatin in it. Bring the rest of the liquid to boiling. Pour in the dissolved gelatin and stir. Remove from the heat and let cool. Dip your seafood in the glaze and freeze as quickly as possible. Shrimp, unlike many fish, can be frozen and refrozen safely. But its not a good idea to do it at home if you don’t have to.

Some people in the fishing industry will tell you that prawns are a separate species from shrimp, while others will tell you they are interchangeable names for the same species. This controversy has gone on for years and isn’t likely to be settled soon. But in general, restaurants and merchants will often refer to the largest shrimp as prawns, or use the terms interchangeably. And speaking of size, how many shrimp should you buy for each serving? Well if you buy them unpeeled, figure about one-third to one-half pound of shrimp per person. If you get them already peeled and deveined, then one-quarter to one-third of a pound per person is sufficient. By the way, a quarter-pound of deveined, peeled shrimp cooks up to about three ounces the weight that the US Department of agriculture considers a standard “serving” for meats and seafood.

Seafood and Unusual Bladder Flares

Unless you have an allergy to fish or shellfish, (assuming you wash off any preservatives) chances are seafood won’t give you bladder trouble. Most IC patients find it very safe. But if you ever experience an intense bladder flare-up from eating seafood you don’t normally react to, here’s a tidbit of useful information. A recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association featured a study that makes an important point about tuna and other seafood: contaminated or aging seafood can contain high levels of histamine, an inflammatory substance that is capable of irritating sensitive IC bladder mast cells. The histamine can also set off allergies and cause serious symptoms of histamine poisoning in people with certain heart conditions. This can happen even when the food is not spoiled sufficiently to be obviously old and smelly or cause gastrointestinal upset.

Histamine is created in seafood when bacteria convert an amino acid histidine, into histamine. Tuna is particularly vulnerable to this process because the animal typically has more bacteria to start with when it is caught. Also, meat from the belly of the fish (normally used to make tuna burgers or steaks) can easily become contaminated with bacteria from the fish’s gut during processing. Storing seafood on ice and keeping it properly refrigerated prevents the development of histamine. According to ABC News (, March 19, 2001), the JAMA article’s author (Karen Becker, an official at the Centers for Disease Control) is calling for development of a quick test for histamine in seafood so that local health departments can more easily monitor the safety of food at docks and restaurants. If the test does become publicly available (and simple and cheap), it might be a boon to IC patients too– especially those who are wary of eating at restaurants or trying new food sources.