AskDefine | Define shellfish

Dictionary Definition



1 meat of edible aquatic invertebrate with a shell (especially a mollusk or crustacean)
2 invertebrate having a soft unsegmented body usually enclosed in a shell [syn: mollusk, mollusc] [also: shellfishes (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



shell + fish


shellfish (plural: shellfish or shellfishes)
  1. An aquatic invertebrate, such as a mollusc or crustacean, that has a shell.


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Extensive Definition

Shellfish is a culinary term for aquatic invertebrates used as food: molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Both saltwater and freshwater invertebrates are considered shellfish. Shellfish is a misnomer, because these invertebrates are definitely not fish. The term finfish is sometimes used to distinguish ordinary (vertebrate) fish from shellfish.
Some do not include shrimp, crab, or lobster in the category of "shellfish."
Molluscs commonly used as food include the clam, mussel, oyster, winkle, and scallop.
Some crustaceans commonly eaten are the shrimp, prawn, lobster, crayfish, and crab.
Echinoderms are not eaten as commonly as mollusks and crustaceans. In Asia, sea cucumber and sea urchins are eaten.
Edible cephalopods, such as squid, octopus, and cuttlefish and terrestrial snails, though all molluscs, are sometimes classified as shellfish and sometimes not.
Shellfish are among the most common food allergens.
The plural "shellfishes" has been used to mean "types of shellfish".

Usage in various cuisines

Archaeology has shown that humans have been making use of shellfish for thousands of years. Nowadays shellfish dishes are a feature of all the cuisines of the world, with a few exceptions.
In Japanese cuisine, chefs often use shellfish and their roe. Sushi and sashimi feature both raw and cooked shellfish.
Lobster in particular is a great delicacy in the United States, where families in the northeast region make them into the centerpiece of a clam bake, usually for a special occasion. Lobsters are eaten on much of the East Coast; the American lobster ranges from Newfoundland down to about the Carolinas, but is most often associated with Maine. A typical meal involves boiling the lobster with some slight seasoning and then serving with drawn butter, baked potato, and corn on the cob.
Clamming is done both commercially and recreationally along the Northeast coastline of America. Various type of clams are incorporated into the cuisine of New England. Notable is the soft-shelled clam, which is eaten fried or steamed, where they are called 'steamers.' Many types of clams can be used for clam chowder, but quahogs, a hard shelled clam also know as a chowder clam, are often used because the long cooking time softens its tougher meat.
The Chesapeake Bay and Maryland region has generally been associated more with crabs, but in recent years the area has been trying to reduce its catch of blue crabs as wild populations have been depleted. This has not, however, stemmed the demand: Maryland style crabcakes are still a well known treat in crabhouses all over the bay, though the catch now comes from points farther south.
In the Southeast, and particularly the gulf states, shrimping is an important industry. Copious amounts of shrimp are harvested each year in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean to satisfy a national demand for shrimp. Locally, prawns and shrimp are often deep fried; in the Cajun and Creole kitchens of Louisiana, shrimp and prawns are a common addition to traditional recipes like jambalaya and certain stews. Crawdads are a well known and much eaten delicacy here, often boiled in huge pots and heavily spiced.
In many major cities with active fishing ports, raw oyster bars are also a feature of shellfish consumption. When served freshly shucked (opened) and iced, one may find a liquid inside the shell, called the liqueur. This is a primary feature of the raw bar, and should be sampled, if not enjoyed. Some believe that oysters have the properties of an aphrodisiac. "Rocky mountain oysters" is a euphemism for bull testicles, as their appearance and preparation is similar.
Inter-tidal herbivorous shellfish such as mussels and clams can help people reach a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in their diets, instead of the current (Western diets) 1:17. 37 (Omega-3:6 ratio and human health). For this reason the eating of Shellfish is often encouraged by dietitians.
Jewish Kosher Law traditions forbid the eating of shellfish. A rational basis taken up by some nonreligious people is the tendency of some shellfish to feed on waste or accumulate heavy metals or toxins in their tissues. Another is that some of these dishes are consumed raw (oysters, mussels, clams and shrimp, most notably) and have the potential to cause serious illness from shellfish poisoning. Some people suffer from potentially-fatal allergies to shellfish.
Some interpretations of Islamic dietary laws forbid eating shellfish.
Seventh-day Adventists do not eat shellfish.
Leviticus (11:9-12) prohibits the consumption of shellfish.
37. Robson, A. 2006. "Shellfish view of omega-3 and sustainable fisheries." Nature 444, 1002 Shellfish in NATURE


External links

shellfish in German: Schalentiere
shellfish in Esperanto: marisko
shellfish in Spanish: Marisco
shellfish in French: Fruits de mer
shellfish in Scottish Gaelic: Maorach
shellfish in Japanese: 貝類
shellfish in Norwegian Bokmål: skalldyr
shellfish in Norwegian Nynorsk: skaldyr
shellfish in Swedish: Skaldjur

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Dungeness crab, Japanese crab, blue point, clam, coquillage, crab, crawdad, crawfish, crayfish, langouste, limpet, littleneck clam, lobster, mussel, oyster, periwinkle, prawn, quahog, scallop, shrimp, snail, soft-shell crab, steamer, whelk
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