Friday, August 3, 2012

Crevettes and Gambas - Shrimps and Prawns. Shrimps in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated August 2018.
Shrimp on the menu.
Photograph courtesy of stu_spivack
Crevettes and gambas on French menus
In France, the word crevettes may be used for any shrimp or prawn, with the Spanish word gamba being used to suggest larger sizes.  A marine biologist will tell you that shrimps and prawns are two quite distinct species; however, who is going to spend the time to re-educate me, other diners around the world, as well as the chefs. When in France and you want to order shrimps or prawns in a restaurant, a fishmonger, or a supermarket, just order crevettes or gambas.  N.B.:  In this post, where possible, I am only using the word shrimps; that may avoid some of the confusion in English.

Traditional shrimp fishing with horses, Belgium.
Shrimps on the menu.
French chefs create wonderful dishes with shrimp and in French seafood restaurants, you may order a number of different shrimps. Two of the shrimps offered will be the two most popular pink or red shrimps; a third will be the smaller but very tasty crevette gris, a gray or brown sand shrimp. After these popular three, there are many others, with the crevette géante tigrée, the giant tiger shrimp, leading the popularity stakes. Other shrimps may be on the menu using local or traditional names. Do not be surprised if confusion with some shrimp names occasionally reaches your menu.
Seafood market in Avignon, France.
Shrimps in the languages of France neighbors:
(Catalan – gambe), (German – garnelen, krevette, crevetten), (Italian -gamberetti, gamberone), (Spanish – gamba).
The Dublin Bay Prawn, the langouste, the real scampi.
Not a shrimp, prawn or lobster.
Shrimp dishes on French menus:
Brochettes de Crevettes Grillées -  Skewers of grilled shrimps.           
Cocktail de Crevettes or a Cocktail aux Crevettes - A shrimp cocktail.  French shrimp cocktails will usually have a fresh mayonnaise or a Sauce Rosé also called a Sauce Calypso or Sauce Cocktail.  They will not be served with American cocktail sauce; the European taste for seafood cocktails does not include horseradish. The basic recipe for this sauce is mayonnaise, ketchup, and Tabasco, sometimes with added cognac. 
Shrimp and avocado salad.
 Crevettes Décortiquées – Peeled shrimps.
Crevettes Ail et Persil a la Plancha – Shrimps flavored with garlic and parsley, cooked on a plancha.  The plancha is a solid, thick, flat sheet metal cooking plate and achieves a cooking taste somewhere between grilling and frying.  The plancha may look something like the flat cooking plate of a fast food restaurant; however,  a real plancha has three times the thickness and that gives a very even heat. The Basques claim ownership, as do the Spanish. In the Basque language, a plancha is called a planxa and that name will be on many South-Western French menus.  
The most popular shrimps on French menus:
Crevette gris:
Crevette gris, crevette boucot, crevette boucard or sauterelle  The sand shrimp, or gray or brown sand shrimp. These are small but very tasty, small, shrimps. When on the menu a sand shrimp cocktail beats a regular shrimp cocktail hands- down. These shrimps, like others, turn pinkish after cooking.
Plenty of sand shrimp
La Bisque de Crevettes Grises  – A sand shrimp bisque. For more about bisques click here.
Croquettes de Crevettes Grises aux Fine Herbes    Round or log shaped chopped sand shrimps, flavored with France’s favorite herb group, the fine herbs, covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Delicious.
Crevettes Gris de Zeebrugge  The same sand shrimp as elsewhere; however, here the menu is telling you that these were caught off the coast of Zeebrugge, the port and seaside resort of Brugge, Belgium. There are places at sea considered uniquely special for the fish and seafood caught there. Provenance at sea can affect your wallet as much as it does on land. If you can taste the difference, you will have to pay for it.
Tartare d'Avocats aux Crevettes Grises et PamplemousseA tartar of avocado, sand shrimps, and grapefruit.
Sand shrimps in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - gamba d'esquer), (Dutch - noordzeegarnaal or grijze garnaal), (German – sandgarnele), (Italian - gamberetto grigio or gambero  grigi),  (Spanish – camarón gris, gamba  gris, quisquilla gris).         
Crevette Rose 
Crevette Rose or Crevette Bouquette – The common prawn, the pink shrimp; one of the two most popular shrimps on French menus. These shrimps can be up to 10 cms long. They will be part of many recipes and nearly always part of a seafood platter. These shrimps are a favorite for shrimp cocktails. N.B.: The pink shrimp on French menus is not the same as the North American pink shrimp.
Shrimp buffet
Cocktail de Crevettes Rose à l'Avocat – A  pink shrimp served in half an avocado.  Fresh mayonnaise or Sauce Calypso will accompany the serving.
Crevettes Roses Grillées au Beurre à l'Ail – Pink shrimps grilled with garlic flavored butter.
Flan d'Endives aux Crevettes Rose, Sauce Moutarde – A flan or tart made with Belgian endives.  Here the pink shrimp will be cooked together with the endives and when ready placed on the flan and served with a mustard sauce.
Pink shrimps in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan -pandàlids), (German - tiefseegarnele), (Italian – gambero rosso), (Spanish - camarón, rosado).

Crevette Nordique:
Crevette Rouge, Crevette Nordique The Northern shrimp, the Norwegian wild prawn, the Northern pink shrimp, the Deep-Water prawn.  These shrimps are almost always part of a shellfish platter. N.B. The Northern pink shrimp on French and other European menus is not the same as the North American pink shrimp.
Salade de Crevettes Nordiques et Artichaut aux Agrumes  - A salad of the northern pink shrimps served with artichokes and citrus fruits.

The crevette rouge, the Northern shrimp.
Filet de Lotte avec Crevettes Nordiques – A filet of monkfish tail served with northern pink shrimps.
Tagliatelle aux Crevettes Nordiques et au Pineau des Charentes The northern pink shrimp served with tagliatelle and flavored with Pineau de Charentes. Pineau de Charentes is a unique and popular aperitif from  France’s Cognac region. For more about Pineau de Charentes click here.
Northern pink shrimps in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - gamba boreal), (German -  eismeergarnele, nordmeer or nordische garnele), (Italian -, gamberetto boreali), (Spanish – camarón norteño).
Crevette Géante Tigrée 
Crevette Tigrée or Crevette Géante Tigrée  - The tiger shrimp, giant tiger shrimp,  the jumbo tiger prawn, the black giant tiger shrimp. This large shrimp originated in Asia and while giant tiger shrimps are caught in the wild most come from shrimp farms. The stripes gave the shrimp the tiger in its name.  Caveat emptor: Other large shrimp from the Mediterranean and shrimp farms are also called tiger shrimps.  If you really want the giant tiger shrimp, check with the server if the menu listing is for the crevette géante tigrée. 
Tiger prawns
Crevettes Géante Tigrée Flambées Rhum, Ananas, Piments d'Espelette – Giant tiger shrimps prepared with pineapples and Espelette Peppers flambéed in rum. Espelette AOP peppers have been grown in France for hundreds of years. The town of Espelette is in the French Basque Country and its peppers are part of many Basque and Basque-influenced French dishes. In season, the houses in and around Espelette may be seen covered in drying peppers.   
Crevettes Tigrées Géantes et Pétoncles Sautés de l’Atlantique Nord dans Notre Sauce Rosée – Giant tiger shrimps and queen scallops from  the North Atlantic served with our sauce rose.
Giant tiger shrimps in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Dutch - grote tijgergarnaal or reuzen-tijgergarnaal), (German – riesengarnele), (Italian - gambero tigre gigante), (Spanish - camarón tigre gigante, langostino jumbo).
Shrimps, when cooked, have meat that will be white, pinkish or bluish-white and firm when cooked.  If it you are served a shrimp that is soft or pasty then it is not fresh; do not eat it. Send it back. Do not eat pasty shrimps unless they are being sold as fish paste!

Connected posts:


The King Scallop and the Queen Scallop. On French Menus the Saint-Jacque, the Coquilles Saint-Jacques, and the Vanneaux or Pétoncle.

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Bryan G. Newman

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