We've just been to Spain and while we were there we ended up in quite a touristy restaurant. There we ate paella which was terrible, at least in my opinion. Then I was wondering how fresh (or not) it was. The prawns were still in their shell but some of them had developed some white areas.

So my question is: do these white spots on the shell indicate that they had been frozen? Or can a prawn go white too if it is boiled or fried straight after being caught?

Just for the record: I'm sure they had been frozen because they didn't taste very nice.

  • 12
    Practically all seafood you get is supposed to be frozen. A fishing trip lasts several hours or days, and it is best if the catch is flash-frozen on board. Second, freezing kills parasites in fish, so some countries have guidelines which dictate that fish must be kept frozen for a given amount of time before preparing it. Even if you can get the exception of non-frozen seafood somewhere, the problem with your bad paella wasn't the frozen shrimp - due to the above reasons, the majority of posh restaurants use frozen seafood, and it still tastes good.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 13:11
  • There are some seafood that are actually better if it's been frozen. (eg, octopus -- it helps to tenderize it)
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 12:58
  • Don't menu in Spain have to state that menu items come frozen ?
    – Max
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


As Rumtscho said in her comment, much seafood is frozen on the boat before it even gets ashore, let alone into a restaurant. However, it is possible to keep seafood fresh using another method. Good seafood restaurants will have live food in tanks ready for eating. I often go to such restaurants and pick out my fish or crab from a tank and watch as the waiter nets it out. In my local market I can buy shrimp still jumping about in the bag as I carry them home. If you insist on fresh seafood, then look for places like these. Usually they will make a show of the live fish in tanks at the front of shop/restaurant.

To answer your question: If you don't see it jumping about live before it's cooked then assume it's either frozen then cooked, or cooked then frozen, or maybe cooked then frozen then cooked again.

  • So the white areas were not caused by freezing the prawns?
    – user7935
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 18:48
  • I have no idea what caused the white spots but your prawns probably were frozen. Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 2:51
  • 5
    Just a theory on the white spots. They might have been caused by protein laden liquid being forced out of the prawns at the beginning of the cooking process and then, as the cooking process continued, the proteins coagulated. The shells being on may have made this more likely as the shell could hold small pools of the liquid.
    – AaronN
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 19:18

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