Cleaning, Cooking and Eating Head-On Shrimps (Halabos Na Hipon)

Shrimps/Prawns cooked this way is the ultimate rich people food back in the Philippines. The bigger, the better. All I know is that it costs more than beef, chicken, fish and pork. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if house parties are judged by the amount and size of shrimp served at the dinner table… and of course, the bigger they get, they are called prawns.

Traditionally, they are cooked with heads and shells on, only with a bit of salt and a small piece of crushed ginger to remove the fishy smell.  As a kid, I wished for shrimps/prawns could be bought and cooked without the shells on out of sheer laziness, and now as an adult I wont touch cocktail shrimp – because they are tasteless without the cocktail sauce. Blech.

The shrimps I use are not the large and expensive kind, and since I am the only one at home who usually eats shrimp, I don’t mind getting the cheapest one in the market with the head on because it will taste the same, I’ll just have to peel a couple of pieces more.


  • Head-on shrimps. 2 lbs of shrimp will feed about 3-4 people if served with rice. ($4.49/lb? Why not?)
  • A pat of butter
  • Garlic, Chopped (about 2-3 cloves)
  • Shallots/Onion (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt to taste

How to clean shrimp before cooking it whole with shells on:

Here’s a video. Photographing was impossible without my third arm.

All you have to do is pull the long feelers that stick out of it’s head. Just make sure that you have a firm grip on the head so it doesn’t discombobulate.

Protip: The shrimp’s flavor comes from the head, not from the body. Does this mean that I’m not deveining it? Yup. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.

Cooking Procedure:

In a bowl, season the shrimps with salt and toss it with some cooking oil.

Add the shrimps in a very hot pan.

Toss them around gently. As they start cooking, they will turn orangey-white. Turn heat down to medium low.

Add butter and garlic. (In this photo, I added butter/garlic/shall0t mix, leftover from the mussels I made in a previous post)

Keep tossing and turning the shrimps around until they all turn opaque orange/white and transfer immediately to a serving bowl. Shrimps/Prawns have a tendency to overcook by keeping them in the hot pan. Serve with white rice and dipping sauce of your choice. My favorite is Soy-vinegar.

How to peel and eat shrimp:

First, line the table with newspapers and wash your hands. You will be eating with your hands!  Again, the tastiest parts of the shrimp is in the head, so take it apart and suck all that flavor out! Mmm.

Shrimp allergies? I can’t help you in that department. However, I have them and it has occasionally manifested itself and I just take an antihistamine. 😉 (Disclaimer: THAT’S NOT ADVICE. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN WITH MANAGING YOUR FOOD ALLERGIES.)

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