Langoustine is often called one of the "most important commercial crustaceans in Europe". Considered a delicacy, its rich and juicy flesh also offers various health benefits. If you visit any top restaurant in Europe, chances are good you'll find this shellfish on their menu. To put it into context, currently, they're the most expensive fish at the UK ports with an annual worth of over £97 million ($121 million) for the industry.
What Is Langoustine?
Langoustines are one of the most popular shellfish. Some choose to identify them by their scientific name, Nephrops norvegicus.
It's common to confuse them with crayfish as they appear quite similar, but while crayfish grow in lakes and rivers, langoustines are exclusive to seas and oceans.
They are also often confused with their close relatives, lobsters. Both of them belong to the same family Nephropidae, but langoustines are much smaller than lobsters, growing to a maximum size of 24 cm in length. Their shells are pink/orange in color, and while their color does become paler upon cooking, it doesn't change completely, as when cooking lobster shells.
Compared to the larger langoustines, the smaller ones are more valued. It's their sweet meat that you often find on restaurant menus, advertised as "scampi." Scampi is an Italian word meaning "peeled prawn tail," but in the UK, it specifically refers to the tail meat of langoustine.
Langoustines are caught in the colder waters of Norway, Ireland, and Scotland. In fact, per some reports, as much as 70% of the world's langoustines come from Scotland. From there, this shellfish is exported all across Europe.
Countries like France and Spain — where these shellfish are called cigalas — are some of the biggest markets of langoustines.
Since langoustine is a popular seafood of Europe, you might hear it being called by different names in different parts of the continent. Some of these names are Dublin Bay prawn (Ireland), Norway lobster (UK), Norwegian lobster (Netherlands), Norwegian hummer (Germany), and lagostim (Portugal).
Are Langoustines Overfished?
The Marine Conservation Society's "Good Fish Guide" gives ratings to fishes, which indicate whether they are caught sustainably or if they're overfished. According to this guide, the ratings of langoustines range from "best choice", "good choice', "ok", "needs improvement" to "fish to avoid" depending on where and how they're caught.
For example, scampi caught in North Minch have been given a "good choice" rating. This is because the shellfish in this area are caught by good fishing methods like potting and creeling. Moreover, they're neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.
On the contrary, langoustines caught in Farn Deeps have been given a "needs improvement" rating. This indicates that the shellfish here are caught by poor fishing methods like bottom trawling and are subject to overfishing.
Therefore, whether langoustines are overfished or within the recommended catch limit depends on the area where they are caught.
Langoustine vs Lobster: How Do They Differ?
Since lobsters and langoustines are closely related, many confuse them. Technically speaking, there are over 200 species of lobsters, but the kinds that people recognize from their dinner plate and talk about the most are the Canadian/American lobster (Homarus americanus) and the European lobster (Homarus gammarus). These "true lobsters" have red and bluish shells. Also, their most defining feature is their large size. Mostly weighing over 1 kg, they can easily reach a size of 50 cm in length.
Langoustines, though also called Norway lobsters, look more like shrimps. They are smaller in size, weigh lesser, and have a more slender body, as well as a differently colored shell than the better-known lobsters.
You'll find more differences while cooking them. A single langoustine offers much less meat since you can eat just the flesh in its tail. In comparison, lobsters offer much more meat, which you can take from their body and head as well as from the areas between the shells.
Also, you'll find lobsters turning red as you cook them. This is unlike langoustines, which only grow paler after being cooked.
How Does Langoustine Taste?
How a langoustine tastes depends mainly on its size. While the meat offered by the larger kinds is more substantial in quantity, it's not considered as tasty. Compared to this, the flesh from the tails of the smaller langoustines is considered an absolute delicacy. Their meat is rich, juicy, fleshy, and slightly sweet. People also love it for its aroma, which is similar to that of a lobster.
Are There Any Nutrients in Langoustines?
Langoustine is loaded with iodine, vitamin B12, copper, and selenium. It's also rich in proteins, phosphorus, and vitamin E. As a good source of omega-3, it offers many essential fats to the body. Studies have shown that you can get more than 5% of your recommended weekly dose of omega-3 from 100 g of langoustine.
As your body can't make omega-3 fats naturally, it becomes all the more important to add such shellfish to your diet. Moreover, compared to other animal foods, not only does langoustine have more nutrients but also significantly lesser amounts of saturated fats — fats that increase the bad cholesterol in your body.
What Are the Health Benefits of Langoustine?
There are many well-known health benefits of langoustine. As a rich source of vitamins and minerals, it has some of these uses:
Keeps bones strong. Langoustine contains good amounts of phosphorus, which is a key element in your bones and teeth. Even its other minerals like zincand copper play an important role in bone formation. Therefore, having langoustine can help to keep your bones healthy.
Maintains good skin. Langoustine is a good source of vitamin E. This vitamin is found in your sebum (skin oil), which is responsible for maintaining the moisture in your skin. Thanks to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E can also help to treat various skin disorders and reduce the signs of aging.
Reduce the risk of diseases. The nutrients present in langoustine like selenium, vitamin E, and zinc form a vital part of your body's antioxidant defense system. By protecting your cells and tissues from damage, they can lower your chances of having problems like heart diseases, liver diseases, and cancers (such as oral, bowel, and stomach cancers).
Helpful for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Being a shellfish, langoustine contains a great amount of iodine. Found in breast milk, this mineral helps to keep growing babies healthy. It's also known to reduce the chances of breast cancer. This is what makes it very important for breastfeeding and pregnant women.
How to Eat Langoustine
Keep a few things in mind before you eat langoustines. Be sure that for cooking, you use only the meat from their tails. You can even use flesh from the claws if the shellfish is large enough. While langoustines are also sold live, many prefer buying them in frozen forms for the sake of convenience. If you plan to do the same, check that your langoustines are fresh. To do so, make sure they have bright pinkish-orange color, little smell, and bright eyes.
The way you unfreeze your shellfish is also important. Before you start cooking them, let the frozen langoustines thaw naturally under cold running water. Once they are thawed, boil or roast them in well-salted water and then remove their shells. If you plan to use pre-boiled langoustines, reheat them gently without re-cooking them. Otherwise, they might become tough.
There are various ways of eating langoustine. Since their flesh is naturally sweet and tender, you can create a delicious dish without using any extra additives. For example, you can serve it simply with a dollop of garlic butter or mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon. It can also be baked, stir-fried, or deep-fried in batter. Another option is adding them to pasta, curry, or paella.
Are There Any Precautions to Consider Before Having Langoustine?
Cooked shellfish like langoustines, lobsters, and prawns are considered very healthy and suitable for all age groups. You can eat them in any amount since there is no recommended intake limit for these shellfish. The only thing you need to consider is how well are you storing and preparing your langoustines.
Shellfish can often contain harmful bacteria and viruses. If you eat them raw or don't cook them thoroughly, the microbes they contain can lead to food poisoning. The same thing can happen if your langoustine is not fresh or is stored in an unhygienic condition. The good news is that cooking generally kills most of these microbes.
This is why, per the Food Standards Agency (FSA), those who are sick, pregnant, very old, or very young should avoid eating lightly cooked or raw langoustine.
You can also be allergic to langoustine, especially if you're already allergic to other shellfish.
Moreover, shellfish like langoustine might contain toxins if caught in polluted waters. Even after cooking, these toxins can remain and cause symptoms like:
Get medical help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms or have an allergic reaction after eating langoustine.