What is Amaebi Sushi (Sweet Shrimp)?

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If you are a diehard fan of raw fish and love dining at top sushi establishments, there is a high chance you have heard of or sampled Amaebi sushi before. Few sushi and sashimi dishes surpass the delicacy and popularity of Amaebi.

However, eating this raw shrimp over sushi rice is still a daunting idea for many Westerners. This article seeks to lower such anxieties by introducing everything you need to know about Amaebi sushi, including how it tastes and how to cook it!

Amaebi Sushi

Without further ado, let’s kick-start this learning journey!

Basic Understanding Of Amaebi Sushi

In Japanese, “Ama” means sweet, while “Ebi” translates to shrimp. Together, you can easily guess that Amaebi refers to sweet shrimp. It is also popular as spot prawns and pink shrimp.

Amaebi often refers to northern shrimps (Pandalus borealis) or California spot prawns (Pandalus platyceros). Both are cold-water creatures that live in deep water (up to 1,000 meters) along the Japan Sea coastlines (from Toyama Bay northward and Hokkaido).

Basic Understanding Of Amaebi Sushi
Credit: @kyotei_bkk

People usually capture these sweet shrimps small when their sweetness is at the highest level. Their eggs possess a distinct blue hue with a crisp texture, sometimes accompanying the shrimp flesh on sushi rice.

Amaebi is a Versatile Ingredient

Amaebi is a traditional and popular item on every sushi restaurant menu. This soft, sweet, and translucent ingredient makes it a common item for sweet shrimp sashimi or a topping for nigiri and sushi rolls. Amaebi tastes best when eaten fresh.

Sweet Shrimp(Amaebi)
Credit: @sushisasabuneglendale

Typically, Amaebi sushi includes a raw, sweet shrimp lying over sushi rice. While its tail remains attached to the body, Amaebi’s head is removed. Chefs love to fry the head with potato starch and serve it with Amaebi nigiri.

Besides, the ingredient is often tempura-fried, grilled, or topped with Tobiko or Masago when eaten raw with sushi rice.

What Does Amaebi Taste Like?

As the name infers, Amaebi is famed for its sweet and delicate flavor. This taste profile consists of glycine, an amino acid. Moreover, sweet shrimps possess a high moisture content. Thus, when cooked, their bodies shrink and the texture becomes unpleasant.

Interestingly, these sweet shrimps are hermaphrodites, meaning they begin their lives as males before transforming into females.

What Does Amaebi Taste Like
Credit: @mizuki_bcn

Small, male Amaebi is significantly sweeter than its female version. It explains why people prefer catching these sweet shrimps early in their life cycle and enjoy them raw.

After converting into females, Amaebi loses its sweetness and becomes an ideal component for cooking. Female Amaebi carries crunchy eggs, lending rich and robust tastes to your meals.

Amaebi’s Nutritional Values And Health Benefits

Amaebi is an excellent source of lean protein and phosphorus, essential for improving teeth and bones’ health. The seafood is also abundant in vitamin B12 and has a very low level of saturated fat.

For your reference, a raw Amaebi piece contains roughly 6.3 grams of lean protein and approximately 60 calories.

Amaebi Buying Tips

When buying Amaebi, especially sushi- or sashimi-grade, there are a few tips to ensure your purchase is of the highest quality. Here are the criteria you should carefully consider:

  • Color: Look for translucent and live Amaebi since these traits indicate healthy shrimps. If the sweet shrimps are pink, they are not fresh.
  • Aroma: Fresh Amaebi should smell like the ocean, not ammonia-like.
  • Tail: Investigate the shrimp’s tail! Amaebi with a curled tail is clearly not fresh enough. The tail should be positioned properly with the shrimp’s head.
  • Head: A fresh sweet shrimp should have few or no black spots on its head. The presence of black spots indicates that the shrimp’s flesh has begun to decompose.
  • Body: Touch the Amaebi’s body to make sure it is sufficiently firm. Too soft or mushy outer skin signals squishy shrimp flesh inside, not fresh enough for raw consumption.

Storing Amaebi The Correct Way

If you are lucky enough to purchase fresh, live Amaebi at the market, follow these practices to preserve its finest taste and texture:

  • Prepare sweet shrimps immediately (if applicable). Wash their tails in cold water and remove their veins and outer shells.
  • In case you must wait, remove their heads as soon as possible while they are still alive. Otherwise, when the shrimps die with their head attached, an enzyme is released and spread across the bodies, making the flesh black and mushy.
  • Place Amaebi in a container with ice packs to keep it fresh for three days. Prevent storing the shrimps directly on ice. When melted, ice will drown and kill Amaebi.

Making Amaebi Sushi At Home: Why Not?

Instead of throwing money into expensive Amaebi sushi dishes at upscale Japanese restaurants, why not make your homemade version? Here is a brief yet complete tutorial on such a task.

Essential Ingredients And Tools For Creating Amaebi Sushi

To make Amaebi sushi, you will need the following items:

  • Seasoned sushi rice: 2 cups.
  • Amaebi: 2 pounds.
  • Nori sheets.
  • Corn starch: ¼ cup.
  • Salt: 1.5 teaspoons.
  • Thin strips of cucumber.
  • Sliced avocado with pit removed.
  • Optional: wasabi, soy sauce, or pickled ginger.

Preparing Amaebi

Before making Amaebi sushi rolls, you need to defrost the sweet shrimps in case they are frozen.

Then, remove the shrimp’s head by grabbing the body with one hand and the head with the other. Simply twist the body to separate it from the head.

After that, carefully remove the outer shell, leaving the tail attached as a lovely ornament for Amaebi.

Lastly, rinse the sweet shrimps well before cutting their bodies open from the rear and removing the viscera. Never use tap water to wash the sweet shrimps since the chlorine concentration would kill them instantly.

Watch this video: This tutorial will guide you on the correct way to prepare sweet shrimps.

Complete Tutorial For Making Amaebi Sushi

Follow the following five-step guide to make the delectable homemade version of Amaebi sushi rolls.

  • Step 1: Submerge the prepared sweet shrimps in a bowl of hot water. Then, put them in iced water right away before drying the prawns with paper towels. This practice helps achieve a crispy texture for Amaebi.
  • Step 2: Spreading seasoned sushi rice over Nori sheets on a bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap. Place Amaebi in the center and garnish the edges with avocado slices and cucumber strips.
  • Step 3: Roll the bamboo mat from one end toward the other before sealing the edges with a few drops of water.
  • Step 4: Gather a sharp, moistened sushi knife and cut the roll into six to eight equal pieces.
  • Step 5: Consume Amaebi sushi rolls quickly. If they stay out for too long, the moisture from avocado slices and cucumber strips will compromise Amaebi’s crunchy texture.

Besides using raw male Amaebi, you can utilize the female prawns by combining them with cornstarch, pepper, and salt. Then, fry them with canola oil for about two minutes or until they become pink.

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FAQs About Amaebi Sushi

This section covers the most demanding inquiries about Amaebi sushi. The following answers will provide you with additional knowledge surrounding the topic.

1. What is the optimal time to catch Amaebi?

Winter is the peak season for Amaebi in Japan. Yet, nowadays, you can find the ingredient year-round, thanks to the importation from Greenland and Canada.

2. How long can I store Amaebi in the refrigerator?

After removing the heads and cleaning the bodies, you can place Amaebi in a container with iced packs. This practice allows you to keep the sweet prawns in the fridge for up to three days.

3. Can I freeze Amaebi?

Yes, you may freeze these sweet shrimps if the three-day storage period is insufficient. However, ensure to contain them in a freezer-safe bag to protect the prawns from freezer burns.

4. What if my Amaebi contains eggs?

If you discover eggs in your purchased Amaebi, you are very fortunate. It means you are having female shrimps. These eggs are edible and provide a rich, robust taste to your meals. They are also brilliant garnishes for sushi rolls.

5. How can I defrost frozen Amaebi properly?

After taking frozen Amaebi out of the freezer, place them into the refrigerator overnight or until they are defrosted. You can speed up the defrosting process by dipping the shrimps in cold water. However, be noted that Amaebi cannot be refrozen once thawed.

6. What are the substitutes for Amaebi in sushi and nigiri?

In addition to Amaebi, you can utilize other shrimp varieties in making nigiri or sushi. Kuruma-ebi, Sakura-ebi, Botan-ebi, and Shiro-ebi are the four most popular types you should try!

How About Enjoying Amaebi Sushi For The Next Meal?

What do you think about Amaebi sushi? Does the idea of eating raw sweet prawns intrigue you or freak you out? Many individuals, including myself, were frightened by it in the past. Yet, it is now one of my favorite ingredients in sushi and nigiri dishes.

Let’s share your feelings about this famous Japanese item in the comment section below. Thank you for reading!

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