One of the most popular ingredients in the Japanese kitchen. The major types of ebi used in the Japanese kitchen and their ways of preparing are:
Ama-ebi: "Northern shrimp" or "Pink shrimp" (Pandalus borealis). Length about 12 cm. Nov-Feb. Sweet-tasting and used for sushi and sashimi. Has transparent meat.
Botan-ebi, "Botan shrimp" (Pandalus nipponensis). Used raw on sushi as this type is soft enough and need not be boiled. Also in tempura and deep-fried.
Hokkai-ebi, "Hokkaido prawn" (Pandalus latirostris). Found along the northern shores of Hokkaido, grows to 13 cm. Often used in tsukudani (salt-sweet preserve of fish, shellfish and vegetables).
Ise-ebi, "crawfish, Japanese spiny lobster" (Panulirus japonicus). Can reach 35 cm. As sashimi, or split in half and grilled.
Kuruma-ebi, "tiger prawn" (Marsupeaeus japonicus). Up to 20 cm. May to Sept. Large prawn used for sushi, sashimi, and also popular as a deep-fried food (ebi-furai, breaded and deep-fried). One of the most popular types of shrimp and cultivated on a large scale in "shrimp farms." An extra large type, growing to 27 cm., is called "Taisho-ebi."
Sakura-ebi "Cherry blossom shrimp," (Sergia lucens). Small shrimp of 5 cm. Light red in color. Used in various dishes to provide a colorful touch.
Shiba-ebi, "Grey prawn"(Metapenaeus joyneri). 10-15 cm. Very tasty. Extensively used in tempura, but also on sushi, in sunomono (vinegared salad) and in kakiage (a clump of shrimp, small fish and vegetables fried together as tempura).
[Ise-ebi. Photo Wikipedia]
For use on sushi or as ingredient in other dishes, ebi are usually briefly boiled in salted water (except the botan-ebi, which is already very soft). A few minutes is enough to bring out the "umami." When meant for use on nigiri-zushi, the larger ones as kuruma-ebi are first skewered to keep them straight (the heat otherwise makes them curl up). Next the scales are removed and the blue stripe which runs the length of the shrimp and which is the digestive tract, is taken out. Finally they are washed, cut open, and put in butterfly form on the sushi. Thanks to the boiling the transparent meat has turned white with orange fringes. Ebi only became a popular sushi topping after WWII. Smaller shrimp may be attached to the rice with a band of nori.
Shrimp are usually kept alive until the moment of use.