Scampi is a name for various culinary preparations of certain crustaceans, commonly Nephrops norvegicus (the Norway lobster, sometimes itself called “scampi” or “langoustine”), or a similar lobster such as Metanephrops, as well as shrimp or prawns. Scampi preparation styles vary regionally. While the United Kingdom legally defines scampi specifically as Nephrops norvegicus, other similar lobsters are considered scampi worldwide. Monkfish tail is sometimes illegally used and sold as scampi in the United Kingdom, contravening the Fish Labelling (Amendment) England Regulation 2005 and Schedule 1 of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996.
Langoustines or Norway lobsters – Nephrops norvegicus – are roughly the size of a large crayfish and fished from silty bottom regions of the open Atlantic Ocean, and parts of the Mediterranean. The fleshy tail of the Norway lobster is closer in both taste and texture to lobster and crayfish rather than prawn or shrimp.
They are often informally known as Dublin Bay prawns, though the term “prawn” can be confusing since it is sometimes used to describe several varieties of shellfish: the first group includes members of the lobster family such as scampi (langoustine in French and cigala in Spanish), while the second takes in large shrimp, particularly those that live in fresh water. However, in terms of biological classification, lobsters like scampi are of a different family from prawns/shrimp.
The name is used loosely both in Italy and elsewhere to refer to other similar species, though some food labelling laws (in Britain, for example) define “scampi” as Nephrops norvegicus.
According to Larousse Gastronomique, langoustine are delicate and need to be poached only for a few seconds in court-bouillon. When very fresh they have a slightly sweet flavour which is lost when they are frozen. They can be eaten plain, accompanied by melted butter.
In Britain the shelled tail meat is generally referred to as “scampi” or “wholetail scampi”, although cheaper “re-formed scampi” can contain other parts together with other fish. It is served fried in batter or breadcrumbs and usually with chips and tartare sauce. It is widely available in supermarkets and restaurants, considered pub or snack food but its prevalence has reduced due to declining fish stocks.
In the United States, “scampi” is often the menu name for shrimp in Italian-American cuisine (the actual word for “shrimp” in Italian is gambero or gamberetto, plural gamberi or gamberetti). The term “scampi”, by itself, is also the name of a dish of shrimp served in garlic butter and dry white wine, served either with bread, or over pasta or rice, although sometimes just the shrimp alone. Most variants of the “shrimp scampi” come on pasta. The word “scampi” is often construed as that style of preparation rather than an ingredient, with that preparation being called “shrimp scampi”, and with variants such as “chicken scampi”.
Prawn Scampi Recipe
- 700 g medium fresh prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 115 g butter
- 225 g spaghetti or angel hair pasta (cooked according to package directions)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cook pasta until al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a saute pan. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute (do not brown).
- Add butter, wine, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and reduce by half.
- Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes. Turn and cook a further 2 minutes until pink and opaque.
- Transfer the cooked pasta to plate and top with shrimp mixture.