Friday Fuck Ups: The Illusive Fried Shrimp Head


A funny thing happened a few weeks back. And I have to say I’m still a little shocked I’m actually saying this, but credit where credit is due.  A few Sundays back, Food Network actually did something that kinda blew my mind.

As much trash talk as I dish out on Food Network programming, this new show of theirs, The Best Thing I Ever Ate is pretty damn good. It probably also helped that the episode I caught just happened to be the Best Fried food tribute. I’m sure there are other lovely categories, but an entire show dedicated to the wondrous variety of fried foods is without question one of FN’s better attempts to win over viewers.

It was Duff’s obsession with the apparently abundant but never advertised part of an animal we rarely think about eating: shrimp heads. Fried shrimp heads. A whole basket of them! I knew immediately that I had to learn how to make these little delicacies.  And that’s pretty much when everything starts to go down hill…


I looked everywhere [on the internet] and flipped through all my cook books, but alas, found virtually nothing on the subject of how to deep fry a shrimp head. Did they need to be coated? With what? Cornstarch? Tempura batter? What about bread crumbs? How do you gut these things? What’s that orange goop? Anything I need to know about oil temperature?



Thanks for playing.

I don’t mind rolling blind in the kitchen these days, but I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be easy. So I picked up some jumbo prawns from the local market, heads still on, removed the tails as I would normally, and stared at the spiny insect face wondering what I should do with it. I figured that I should remove as much of the insides as I could, thinking the frying oil probably wouldn’t react well to wet guts.


Then into a dry coat of cornstarch the heads went and into the fryer. No dice. Oil was too hot at that point, heads fried way too fast and got burnt badly. Second batch not much better.

Then I tried a cornstarch bath by adding water and giving the heads a wet coat. Again no luck. The fry wasn’t bad, but the issue was that the shrimp heads weren’t frying right. I couldn’t get that light, crispy texture out of the heads. I got chewy or burnt. There was that interesting flavor when you bit right into the brain part of the head, but most of the textures weren’t really edible.

After several more failed attempts I’m still a little stumped on where I’m going wrong. How can I create this amazing deliciousness Duff was raving about? Am I going to be burned yet again by another Food Network show disappointment?

ES readers, Help! For the love of all that is good and unholy and fried, please show me the way!

Have you fucked up? Send in your Friday Fuck Up:

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  • BS November 13, 2009  

    so cool! I can’t believe there’s nothing out there on the webs about frying shrimp heads. I don’t even love shrimp and I want to try this.

  • Alex Vandelay November 13, 2009  

    I once had shrimp heads at a Teppanyaki restaurant, they were cooked slowly on the side of the hot plate whilst the rest of the meal was prepared and then presented at the end. Rather good they were too, almost like a shrimp head cracker, though I don’t think the texture would be for everyone.

  • Nick November 13, 2009  

    I had some fried shrimp heads at a sushi joint in Chicago a few months ago. Umm… delicious. I should’ve asked them how they did it.

    I’m pretty sure it was a tempura batter base, but yea.. it was pretty thin. It was almost like eating a shrimp potato chip. Super crispy and flavorful. I could eat bags of them.

    I’ll add it to my list of things to attempt 😉

  • Kirbstr November 14, 2009  

    Obi Sushi in Reston cooks the heads if you ask. Not sure how it is done, but next time I go there I will be trying it. 🙂

  • scott November 16, 2009  

    Write the food network…

    But I’m pretty sure the guts should stay where they are. That’s the whole point right?

    What about the whole milk, then flour, then egg, then bread crumb thing? Panko those motherfuckers. With the guts inside they shouldn’t burn as quickly, and then you can start to focus your attention on bad ass dipping sauces.

    mmmmmm guts.

  • Monica February 19, 2010  

    Email Duff. His email address is At the end of his fried fish segment he invites people to email him and thank him for introducing these shrimp heads. The least he can do is share some tips (I’m sure he’s asked how to make them).

  • Niki May 24, 2010  

    I regularly eat shrimp heads. If you go to a good sushi restaurant the usually serve amaebi sashimi with the option of having the heads deep fried.

    It is probably my MOST favorite thing to eat in the entire world.

    Unfortunately, until now, I wasn’t aware that there were restaurants that actually served an entire plate dedicated to the delicacy. The places I’ve been people usually look at me funny when I get them and I wasn’t aware that that many people actually ate them. If only Annapolis wasn’t so far away from Austin!

    The oil should be very hot but be careful not to burn them. You have to lightly coat them with panko batter that you can get at most supermarkets in a good sized town. Leave all the parts in the shrimp head, that is the best part!

    You could probably use a little bit of flour instead of panko if you can’t find it.

    It doesn’t take long but they are DELICIOUS and it is worth the oily mess.

    Good luck to you!

    ALSO, If this is something that interests you, some good fish bones fried are equally delicious!

    Find a good quality fish and clean/filet it. Leave some meat on the bones, then fry it as you would the shrimp! 🙂 Mmmm

  • Andre February 14, 2011  

    You seem to have missed something in the show. It looks to me that the complete shrimp was cooked, then afterwards the heads get deep fried. It will make a difference.

  • Alyssa November 23, 2011  

    Just made these for the first time last night, and they came out perfect, and were ULTRA delicious, I could have eaten 20! Here’s what I did:

    1/4 C Cornstarch
    1/2 C AP Flour
    1 tsp. Paprika
    1/2 tsp Cumin
    Salt & Pepper
    (You can add any other spices too, but these are some of my favs)
    Enough CHILLED club soda to make a nice light, airy batter

    1. Heat oil to 350-375
    2. Remove heads from tails (if you want, or you can dip the entire shrimp), but make sure the entire head stays in tact. Do not remove any of “guts” those are the best parts, but I chose to remove the shell casing over the head (the part with the serrated nose) and the two small cartilage ‘fins’ directly under its face. * Also, don’t forget to clean + devein your shrimp before eating.
    3. Coat the heads in the batter and drop into the hot oil. This should take 30 secs – 1 min to cook entirely through
    4. Enjoy. mmmm

    Hope this helps!


  • Miyuki May 4, 2012  

    I just tried making some deep-fried spot prawn heads and they turned out great. I fried them at 170 C (340 F) for 3 minutes without any coating whatsoever. The sushi places I frequent do not usually put anything on them either.

  • Marcella June 20, 2013  

    Cornstarch is your friend when it comes to frying crispy asian delights.

    Wash your shrimp thoroughly. Twist off heads, remove ONLY purple sack behind “nose” and the gills if you’re squeemish, I’m not.

    1 lb. head on jumbo shrimp
    1/2 c. cornstarch
    salt and pepper
    3 cups high heat oil like peanut oil or grapeseed oil

    Seasons shrimp heads with salt and pepper. Heat oil to 340-370 (heat is important). Dredge seasoned shrimp in cornstarch and drop into oil. Fry 30 seconds to 1:30 minutes at most (depends on size of head, heat of oil). Drain on paper towels and enjoy. That’s it. Super easy.

  • bob7131 September 16, 2013  

    best to stay away from hot oil be for you get hurt. Try totalrecipe lots on shrimp heads

  • vins April 4, 2014  

    Fry it in a pan

  • Scott April 19, 2015  

    Your oil is too hot…. heat it to medium and be patient.

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