Originally posted November 3, 2010.
Since our Annual Shrimp Festival is this weekend, it is fitting that we review San Felipe’s shrimp history. Shrimp season opening date varies from year to year but always starts with an appropriate blessing of the shrimp and the shrimpers by a local priest.
We are best known for our huge, blue shrimp. Shrimp are rated by the number per pound. Bay shrimp can be over 100 count, usual restaurant shrimp, about 35, but our blue shrimp hover between 8 and 10.
“Blue” is probably a misnomer since the shrimp have white flesh but have a bluish-green shell. Other smaller local shrimp have a brownish shell and slightly off-white flesh.
Twenty years ago, San Felipe had a fleet of 12 or more huge shrimpers but blue shrimp have been so badly depleted from indiscriminate over-harvesting, that our once proud fleet has been reduced to two or three vessels. In recent years, the government and conservationists have severely restricted dates, locations and harvests in the hope of rebuilding our once lucrative shrimp beds.
I happen to live across the street from San Felipe‘s largest shrimp processing plant. A mere 10-years ago, each week, 20 or more 22-wheeler (yes, we have oversized trucks in Mexico) tractor trailers would load shrimp. This year there were few weeks when they loaded more than two trucks. Some local shrimp farming has been encouraged but I don’t have up-to-date information on it.
Luckily, the small barcas (fishing boats) have been exempt from government regulation. So far, San Felipe has managed to harvest enough prime shrimp for its own needs. But San Felipe is a “fish town” with its economy based around products from the sea. Most of the commercial boats have converted to fish, and relocated to Puerto Peñasco, across the bay. Hundreds of San Felipians have been put out of work.
If you perchance visit Puerto Vallarta, plan on dining at the “Blue Shrimp”. Their chef has spent a lifetime developing new sauces and methods of preparing blue shrimp. House specialty is a very unusual coconut shrimp.
The Shrimp Festival, November 4-6, on the Malecon, admission is free of charge. Enjoy Shrimp tasting from many different booths plus some pretty good Mexican wine and tequila.
A few tips. Frozen raw shrimp will last (6) months in a freezer. Thaw in refrigerator or under COLD WATER. They will begin cooking in warm or hot water. You may store cooked shrimp for not more than 3 days in a cold refrigerator. Most store-bought shrimp has been thawed from fresh frozen or cooked shrimp. You will probably never see truly fresh, translucent shrimp except when purchased on the Malecon or our marina pier. Defrosted shrimp appears opaque. Always store with heads removed.
Take a kilo (2-1/4 lbs.) or two home with you. You know they will be fresh. We have many vendors, street or mercado (store). The fish markets can provide it frozen. To prevent freezer burn, shrimp are usually frozen in a block of ice, rather than individually,
Of course, there are dozens of recipes for raw and cooked shrimp. Our shrimp festival gives you an opportunity to try out a few favorites of our best chefs.
Personally, I prefer just a good shrimp cocktail. Most people tend to overcook shrimp. I use a 10-quart pot of water, bring to a rolling boil, add a squirt of lemon or lime, turn off heat, drop in not more than ½ kilo defrosted shrimp – let it sit for 2-3 minutes and immediately cool the shrimp under cold water. Peel and de-vein immediately.
For a spicy sauce, just mix 50/50, salsa de tomate (catsup) and fresh rabano picante (horseradish) – maybe a spray of limón verde (lime).