Seafood is a highly valued ingredient in cuisines worldwide, from Chile to Japan. Seafood represents a group of marine invertebrates whose interesting features are worth exploring.
The term "seafood" is a part of the gastronomic vocabulary, and by this, we mean that we're not looking at a single type of seafood but at the whole of edible marine creatures which have very distinctive characteristics.
Therefore, we will explore the three main types of seafood: crustaceans, bivalve mollusks, and cephalopods, which inhabit the seas or freshwater habitats. On occasions, other organisms that don't belong to any of the three categories are included in the group of seafood.
Two examples of this would be the sea urchin (an echinoderm), and the Pyura chilensis, called piure in Spanish, which is a staple food in Chilean gastronomy. There are many famous seafood dishes around the world, and a few of the most known specialties include the Spanish seafood paella, the Portuguese seafood soup, the Italian seafood spaghetti, and the seafood pastry from Argentinian Patagonia.
Crustaceans belong to the anthropoid taxonomy - they are invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton that contains chitin, a derivate of glucose. Exoskeletons have a role in defense from pests and predators, support, and in providing an attachment framework for the animal's musculature.
The majority of crustaceans are marine animals and inhabit seawaters, freshwater, as well as brackish waters which represent a mixture of salt and fresh water.Crabs, shrimps, lobsters, barnacles, or prawns are examples of seafood from the subphylum Crustacea. We will have a look at the features and culinary uses of these marine animals.
Crabs are decapod (ten-footed) crustaceans that inhabit oceans, fresh water, and land, and are typically covered with a thick exoskeleton and have a single pair of pincers. There are about 5,000 species of crabs, but only about 4,500 species are true crabs.
The remaining 500 species animals with similar names – such as hermit crabs, king crabs, porcelain crabs, horseshoe crabs, and crab lice– are not true crabs. Crabs are also known as “spiders of the sea” because, like crabs, spiders have legs that bend at joints Among the most popular crab dishes, we can name surimi, crab sticks, crab cakes, gejang, Indian crab masala, crab cocktail, and chili crab.
Similarly to crabs, shrimps, or prawns, are decapod crustaceans that can be used in recipes such as shrimp appetizers, shrimp pasta salad, shrimp soup, or shrimp stir-fry.
Lobsters comprise a family (Nephropidae, sometimes also Homaridae) of large marine crustaceans. Although lobsters were considered poverty food until the 20th century, it has now gained popularity as one of the favorite dishes of affluent people. This crustacean is usually steamed or boiled and accompanied by clarified butter, garlic, parsley, and other similar foods and spices, such as dill, tarragon, and chives that enhance the lobster's taste without overpowering it.
Mollusks, or molluscs, are a group of invertebrates characterized by a mantle with a significant cavity used for breathing and excretion, a calcareous shell (which can be softer or harder), and a radula - a rasping "tongue" used chitinous teeth used for feeding. Bivalve mollusks have a protective shell in two hinged parts (called valves) and inhabit marine and freshwater habitats. Some examples of bivalve mollusks are oysters, mussels, Razorfish, and cockles.
Oysters are marked by their irregular valves and by the fact that they produce pearls. They are considered to be the highest valued type of seafood and gastronomy enthusiasts usually eat them alive, raw and dressed with a drizzle of lemon juice.
Mussels are another delicious type of seafood, perhaps more cost-effective than oysters. You can eat mussels with mayo, vinaigrettes and other sauces, as well as being an ideal ingredient in seafood paella, sweetcorn & mussel chowder, steamed mussels dishes, and fish stew.
Cephalopods are a type of mollusks that only inhabit the seas. Their main features are bilateral body symmetry (divisible into symmetrical halves on either side of a single plane), a prominent head, and a set of arms or tentacles. Cephalopods do not have outer shells except for Nautiluses, which are found in the South Pacific and Indian oceans.
The octopus is an example of a soft-bodied cephalopod with eight tentacles which is grouped within the class Cephalopoda with squids, cuttlefish, and nautiloids. Famous octopus recipes include grilled octopus, slow-braised octopus with potato salad and anchovy dressing, and Catalan-style squid and octopus stew.
Anatomically, squids have elongated bodies, large eyes, eight arms, and two tentacles with vacuum suckers. Among the most popular squid dishes, we can list fried squid, Roman-style squid, and Japanese shiokara which is made with heavily salted, fermented viscera and bits of seafood such as squid and is eaten with rice.