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Shrimp Wars: Texans, A Perverse Subset of Humanity

Jim Gossen checks out the shrimp fleet in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Alison Cook, my counterpoint at the

Chronicle

, describes people who like the iodine-like flavor of Gulf brown shrimp as “a perverse subset” of humanity. As the self-appointed spokesman for this perverse subset, I interviewed Jim Gossen, president and CEO of Louisiana Foods Global Seafood Source, one of the largest shrimp dealers in Houston.

Robb Walsh: Brown shrimp have more iodine flavor than white shrimp--so which is more popular in Texas?

Jim Gossen: Brown shrimp are more prominent in Texas and white shrimp are preferred in Louisiana and on the Eastern Seaboard. A large brown shrimp has a stronger iodine flavor than a small brown shrimp. Brown shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico feed on iodine-rich kelp, which gives it the rich iodine flavor. Wild shrimp feed on crustaceans and seaweed and swim freely which gives it a richer firmer taste than farm-raised shrimp. White shrimp is the dominant shrimp sold in the United States. I think that whichever shrimp people grew up eating is what they judge their taste for shrimp by.

RW: How much brown shrimp is sold in Texas?

JG: I would say about half of the shrimp sold by us to restaurants are brown and the other half are white in the Texas market. Almost all farmed-shrimp are white, which makes the white shrimp sales as high as they are in Texas.

RW: What about Thai tiger shrimp?

JG: Tiger shrimp are mild-tasting shrimp which are predominantly farm-raised in Asia. These shrimp are not as dense as the white or brown gulf shrimp. They are lower in cost, have a higher moister content, and shrink more when cooked.

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RW: Does the iodine flavor in some shrimp bother you or your customers?

JG: I like to compare brown shrimp to a full-bodied red wine and white shrimp to a lighter-bodied white wine. Or you can compare them to cheeses; some people prefer strong cheese and some prefer mild.

RW: When is shrimp with more iodine flavor desirable?

JG: For fried and boiled shrimp I prefer to use brown shrimp. Shrimp scampi or sautéed shrimp where you want a delicate flavor to not overpower your dish, I prefer to use white shrimp. Whenever you need to have a stronger shrimp flavor I would use brown shrimp. Shrimp gumbo would be a good example of when to use brown shrimp.

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