If you’ve ever wondered why the shrimps in restaurant tempura are straight while those you cook at home are curved, there’s a simple trick you should know about. Here’s a step-by-step guide to prepping shrimps for tempura and ebi furai.
We buy shrimps whole. It’s one way of telling how fresh they are. If the head is still firmly attached to the body, that’s a good sign. If the head is practically detaching itself from the body when you lift the shrimp, leave it. That’s not a good sign.
When we get home, we pull off the shrimp head and peel off the shell, including the feet, but we leave the tail on.
(We use the heads and shells to make shrimp broth.)
Then, we remove the digestive tract. Even if you buy your shrimps already beheaded and shelled, do not skip this step.
Take a toothpick and insert at the back of the shrimp. Not too deep. Pierce just deep enough to reach the digestive tract of the animal.
Carefully pull out the black thread that runs through the entire back of the shrimp. That is the digestive tract of the shrimp and you definitely don’t want to eat that.
There is one part of the tail that is harder than the rest. It’s the one attached directly to the back of the shrimp (where the tip of the knife points to in the top photo above). Cut that off and discard.
Cut off and discard the tips of the remaining portions of the shrimp’s tail.
Press the tail with the knife to remove the liquid inside. By doing so, you practically bring down to zero the chances of oil spatter during frying.
Hold the shrimp back side down and make shallow horizontal slashes along the inner portion of the body (the inside of the curve). Depending on the size of the shrimp, the number of slashes should be five to seven.
Turn the shrimp over, back side up. Using your fingertips, press the shrimp down from tip to tip. You will feel some popping as the shrimp flattens.
You now have a straight rather than a curved shrimp.
Repeat with the rest of the shrimps.