Just think about it: A pile of hot, crispy Gulf softshell shrimp, just out of the fry pot, placed in front of you. The whole shrimp–head, tail, body, legs, and antenna—is breaded and deep-fried golden brown. They’re crispy and delicious.
Hands down, Fried Softshell Shrimp is a culinary surprise that defies logic. With an ice-cold beer to your left, a dish of tartar sauce to your right, it’s time to dine. Only in Louisiana.
But there is a crucial reason you won’t find this treat sold in seafood markets or grocery stores–the supply is hit and miss. Like all shellfish, shrimp go through a molting stage as they grow into a larger shell, and there isn’t a particular season that this happens. When shrimpers haul in their nets, they cull their catch by size and hand-select the softshells, which are frozen immediately.
Some restaurants have a supply chain for buying softshell shrimp, but I rarely see it posted on a menu. The only way to buy them is to know someone who can connect you, and you’re in luck. Acadiana Table connects you with the Louisiana Direct Seafood website, which lists many shrimpers in the state’s four coastal regions.
So, grab your ice chest and take a drive to the coast. Here are just a few of the many shrimpers that can sell you softshell shrimp. David Chauvin’s Seafood Company in Dulac has softshells, and so does Lance Nacio with Anna Marie Shrimp in Montegut. And recently, retailer Josh Boudreaux of Southern Seafood, based on Hwy 90 between New Iberia and Broussard, has begun bringing coastal Gulf seafood to the Lafayette area. Give any of these vendors a call to place your order.
- 2 dozen softshell shrimp
- 1 gallon vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Kosher salt
- Tartar sauce, for serving
- Thaw the shrimp overnight in the refrigerator and remove it from the packaging.
- In a pot or skillet over medium-high heat, add enough oil to fill the pot halfway. Bring to a temperature of 375ºF.
- In a mixing bowl, add the cornmeal and stir in the flour and Cajun seasoning. Add the shrimp and bread them evenly.
- Add the shrimp in batches to the oil and fry until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
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