Ridgeback shrimp have sharp, spiny shells and are known by those who love them as "ridgies." While less well-known than the famed spot prawns, they are even more tender and sweet.
Ridgeback Shrimp Season
Ridgeback shrimp live along the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Mexico from Baja up to Monterey Bay. They spawn during the summer and into fall, so the fishing season for them usually opens in November and stays open through the spring. They are mainly fished out of the Santa Barbara Channel and sold in Southern California markets.
How to Buy and Store Ridgeback Shrimp
Look for ridgeback shrimp on ice and with their heads still attached, and plan on cooking them that day or the next. If you do store them overnight, keep them on a bed of ice in the fridge.
How to Peel and Eat Ridgeback Shrimp
Ridgeback shrimp are tiny - not even 2 inches long in most cases - and notoriously tough to peel. Aficionados know they are worth the effort. Cook them with their heads on and to eat and peel them, pull off the head, pull the shell back from the "neck" to loosen it, and squeeze the tail to get the bite of meat out. They are wonderfully sweet and delicate shrimp. Many fans argue dipping them even in melted butter is a waste and insist that these local delicacies be eaten straight up.
P.S. They're Really Prawns
Ridgeback shrimp are, technically, prawns, but the differences between shrimp and prawns are not culinary, so why quibble?