Shrimps, Prawns and Lobsters in Vietnamese Cuisine

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, shrimps are crustaceans of the suborder Natantia (order Decapoda of the class Crustacea), and larger individuals are often called prawns. In Vietnamese, tôm is equivalent to ‘prawn’, and tép is ‘small shrimp’. However, both tôm and tép are often translated into English as shrimps. Close relatives like crayfish and lobsters are often grouped together with shrimps.

Common shrimps, prawns and close relatives in Vietnamese cuisine

Giant river prawn or Tôm càng xanh (Macrobrachium rosenbergii): Common cooking methods are chargrilling, Vietnamese style salt roasting, oven-roasting with garlic butter, steaming, and grilling with cheese.

Tiger prawn or Tôm sú (Penaeus monodon): Common cooking ways are steaming with beer or coconut juice, braising with lemon grass, or using as a spring roll ingredient together with bacon slices. Tiger prawns are also a common ingredients for Vietname salad (gỏi) dishes.

Mantis shrimp or tôm tít/ bề bề: Mantis shrimps can be steamed (with lemongrass, or with beer), poached, grilled or dried and are often served with salt and pepper, tamarind fish sauce or dill.

Whiteleg shrimp or Tôm thẻ chân trắng (Litopenaeus vannamei): mainly used as a salad ingredient.

Greasyback shrimp or Tôm đất / tôm rảo (Metapenaeus ensis): used in some salad dishes, and as a main ingredient to making mắm tôm chà / mắm tôm chua shrimp paste.

Lobster or Tôm hùm: Alaskan lobster is a universally high-prized ingredient. Common ways of cooking are grilling with garlic butter, poaching, salt-roasting. Lobster meat can also be used in making lobster congee. There is a unique Vietnamese dish called tiết canh tôm hùm, which can be described as a raw blood pudding made from lobster blood and lobster meat.

Slipper lobster or Tôm mũ ni (Ibacus ciliatus): similar to lobsters when it comes to cooking skills.

Spiny lobster or Tôm hùm bông (Panulirus ornatus): similar to lobsters when it comes to cooking skills, except for the tiết canh dish.

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