Crayfish is a freshwater shell fish which can be found in rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. Also known by other names such as crawfish, freshwater lobster and crawdad, these fishes are farmed mainly in Europe and Southern United States. Approximately 90 percent of freshwater lobsters produced in US are farmed at Louisiana.
With 540 species found worldwide, crawdads are found in different colors and sizes. An average adult crayfish found in United States measures from 2- 6 inches.
The consumption of crawdad meat is very common in different parts of the world. The body of crayfish usually consists of five pairs of claws, long antennae and shell which can be red, purple or brown depending on the fish species. Crayfish meat is usually whitish pink in color and is soft textured. The tail meat of this freshwater shell fish is often used in soups and bisques.
Preparing and Cooking Crawfish
Preparing the crayfish before cooking it is very important. The gut of the fish should be removed before cooking or else it will make the fish taste bitter. Usually, the gut is removed before freezing the fish and so, if the fish is bought frozen, this step can be omitted. Crayfish can be boiled, grilled or steamed. The tail of this fresh water lobster is most relished; however the shell can be pounded and used for bisques. As the taste of crayfish is similar to crabs, shrimps and lobsters, it can be used as their substitute.
Tips for Buying Crawdad
The freshwater lobster is sold as alive, canned, frozen or cooked. The best season for buying and relishing these freshwater lobsters is early spring as the variety and the quality is the best during this time. It is recommended to buy live crayfish for consumption. The fish should be checked for odor before buying. If it smells musky, it should be avoided. Also, a crayfish with intact claws and firm shell should be preferred. Before cooking, live fish should be washed properly several times under cold running water. Crayfish with mushy tail should be avoided.
Frozen crayfish are available all the year round and can be bought easily from the super marts.
A living crawdad can be stored in the refrigerator for 12 hours after wrapping it well in a moist cloth. When cooked, the fish can be stored in refrigerator for maximum two days. A frozen crawfish has a shelf life of 1-2 months when stored in refrigerator.
Nutrition Facts of Crayfish Meat
The meat of crayfish is a rich source of nutrition as it provides the body with minerals like niacin, potassium, copper and phosphorus. The fish is also a good source of vitamin B12.
Crayfish in Different Cuisines
- Sweden and Finland- The fresh water lobsters are mainly consumed in August which is considered to be the fishing season of the place. The boiled crayfish is seasoned with salt and sugar and is eaten cold.
- France- A’la Nantua is a collective term for dishes which are prepared by garnishing crayfish.
- Spain- The crawdads in Spain are called 'cangrejo de rio' meaning 'river crab'. The fish is often served stewed in tomato sauce and is relished the most in Aragon and Castile and Leon regions.
- United States- Crayfish is known as Crawfish in US. In crayfish recipes of Louisiana, the fish is normally boiled with variety of seasonings such as salt, lemon, garlic, and bay leaves. The fish is served at get togethers which are referred to as crawfish boil. Fried crayfish, crawfish pie and crawfish bread are some of the popular crayfish recipes of US.
- Nigeria- Nigerians usually eat smoked or sundried crayfish. The crawdads are a part of staple diet of people in Nigeria.
- China- Crayfish has gained popularity in China recently. The fish is usually relished steamed or with flavoring of hot chili and Sichuan pepper. Crayfish, in China, is often enjoyed with beer.
Crayfish - Trivia
Observant Jews do not consume crayfish as these fish are aquatic animals without fins and scales and thus do not come under the category of kosher food.