With over 300 varieties of shrimp in existence, consumers have a wide range of choices. Tiger shrimp and rock shrimp are two popular options, and they're also two very different creatures. Some of the differences between the two include waters of origin, fishing and farming practices, appearance, texture and flavor.
Rock shrimp are generally wild-caught from United States waters of the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico; specifically, they are often taken from waters near North Carolina, Texas and Florida. Tiger shrimp are fished or farmed in Asian areas, mainly in the Ca Mau Province of southern Vietnam as well as other regions of Southeast Asia. Tiger shrimp are classified as warm-water shrimp, the most commonly found in markets, and rock shrimp are considered deep-water shrimp.
Environmental Rating and Impact
Many organizations keep track of environmental impact, health concerns, ecosystem balance and other factors associated with fishing or farming seafood. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA has ratings like "Best Choice," "Good Alternative," "Avoid" and others. They rate tiger shrimp as a "Best Choice" because they are abundant, well managed and harvested in an environmentally friendly manner. Rock shrimp are rated a "Good Alternative" because some concerns do exist about health or habitat relating to harvesting practices.
Rock shrimp are a relatively large species, and their tails are sometimes even mistaken for small lobster tails. They are named for their rock-hard shells, which are so difficult to remove that it takes a special machine to break through them. Rock shrimp have a coloring similar to that of lobster, whereas tiger shrimp usually have bluish-gray or black stripes when raw. When cooked, tiger shrimp shells turn red and their meat turns white and red.
Rock shrimp are often mistaken for lobster not only because of appearance, but because of taste. Indeed, rock shrimp are sometimes referred to as the "little shrimp with a big lobster taste” because of their sweet, chewy consistency. When cooked, rock shrimp meat turns red and white. Tiger shrimp meat turns similar colors, but is milder in taste. Tiger shrimp shrink when cooked, so buy a little more than you think you'll need when gauging amounts.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.