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The mantis shrimp is an elongated crustacean that is not longer than 20cm (8in) to 25cm (10in).
It is covered by a shell that may be grayish-white with pink hints or pearly light yellow with pink and purple hints.
It has two brown eye spots at the base of telson, the last segment.
And now let's tell of its appendages. Its head has two pairs of mobile antennas and two appendages at the ends of which there are its eyes. Its eyes are mobile and this is a big advantage when the animal during the day, is immersed in the sand. In fact thanks to its mobile eyes it is able to locate prey and predators easily.
The appendages of the first five thoracic segments are modified to form a complex masticatory apparatus.
Note the two claws with six sharp spines, used by the animal to stab and snag its prey.
A curiosity. A study of tropical crustaceans stomatopoda, conducted in the aquarium, has demonstrated the movement of these claws is so sudden and powerful to be able to break the aquarium glass.
The last three thoracic appendages are used for deambulation.
In the abdomen you can observe a series of appendices, called pleopods. The last pair is particularly strong, durable and has thorns.
Do you want to know more about mantis shrimp? Read the specific page on Wikipedia.
Squilla mantis digs burrows in muddy and sandy bottoms near the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea at a depth of 10 to 200 meters.
It is often fished near the mouth of rivers or canals particularly in the Adriatic Sea (North and center).
It is also found in the Atlantic Ocean south from the Gulf of Cádiz to Angola, as well as around the Canary Islands and Madeira.
It's a solitary animal that lives in U-shaped tunnels dug on the sandy bottom during the day. It comes out by night in search of its prey.
It is generally fished by trawl.
The best period is winter for its meat is more turgid.
The greatest number of specimens are captured especially after storms because they destroy the burrows in the sand.
Abruzzo: Panocchia or Pannocchia - Campania: Spernocchia, Sparnocchia -
Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Canocia, Canoccia - Lazio: Cicala di mare -
Liguria: Balestrin, Sigà de maa - Marche: Cannocia, Pannocchia -
Puglia: Cannocchiella, Cecala - Sardegna: Càmbara de fangu, Solegianu de mari -
Sicilia: Astrea, Cegala de mari - Toscana: Canocchia, Cicala di mare - Veneto: Canocia, Canoccia
Squilla mantis is well appreciated by locals.
It's a good source of protein.
Unfortunately, like all crustaceans, it has a cholesterol content greater than fish.
High content of zinc, magnesium, iodine and iron.
In general Squilla mantis specimens last long out of the water. So if they are fresh they should still be moving in the fish counter.
These kind of mantis shrimp are very perishable and then undergo a process of dehydration which rapidly empties them internally.
So if you don't see them very turgid avoid buying them.
Make sure the shell is intact, compact and has no dark or yellow spots.
Help yourself with the nose. Fresh specimens should smell of salt water.
For all these reasons Squilla mantis should be eaten immediately after being purchased. If you need to save insert them in a freezer bag and put them in the refrigerator in the coolest part (just above the box of vegetables) for no longer than 24 hours.
You can also freeze them but not for more than three months.
Doses per head: 300g (10 1/2 ounces) fresh crustaceans.
The first thing to do is rinsing them very well under running water, being careful not to hurt you with their spiny parts.
The next steps depend on the recipe and the occasion in which you prepare them.
A curiosity. Even the great Artusi tells about cicale (Squilla mantis): boiled and then deep fried.
Cooking time: follow the cooking times you read in the recipes because Squilla mantis can't be cooked for a long time like all crustaceans. Its meat should become stringy.
When they are in their shell they must be boiled for not more than 5 minutes.
It depends on the recipe but anyway we suggest some wines that match very well with shellfish.