There are several species of tiger prawns including brown tiger prawns, Alaska tiger prawns and black tiger prawns. Most tiger prawns available on the US market are black tiger pawns that originate from prawn farms in Southeast Asia. They usually come raw with shell, cooked, easy peel or in other ready to eat forms. Americans are buying cultured prawns more and more every year because they can be cooked using just about any method you can think of and taste great.
When raw their shells are striped with blue, brown, black or grey colorings. Cooked prawns have reddish-orange shells. Sometimes you may get a soft shelled raw tiger prawn, which is nothing to worry about because this is only an indicator that it molted right before harvest. Their meat is lean and firmer than most other prawn varieties which make them very easy to cook and work with. They can be cooked whole in their shells or you may choose to remove the shell before cooking.
As far as taste goes tiger prawns tend to be very mild and go well with a wide variety of flavors, including; Cajun, Asian and African spices. Their taste is a large part of their worldwide appeal, not many other prawn varieties go so well with such a wide assortment of flavors.
Tiger prawns are normally sold per pound and labeled 17/21, 21/25 and so on. 17/21 means there are 17 to 21 shrimp per pound. Obviously the smaller the numbers indicate large tiger prawns.
I have found that the best place to purchase tiger prawns is from a premium seafood supplier over the internet. There are many great advantages to buying your tiger prawns online. Firstly when you order online your prawns are shipped directly from the supplier, thus skipping the long journey from distributor to the retail outlet where they are sold and ensuring they are at their very freshest. Another reason ordering online is a good idea is because it opens you up to a much wider selection and allows you to sample tiger prawns harvested from many far off lands. Lastly, when ordering online tiger prawns are shipped overnight, which allows you to plan accordingly and avoid the long lines at your local seafood store.
Although most tiger prawns are farmed it doesn't mean they haven't been treated to prevent melanosis. Many tiger prawn producing countries soak their prawns in sulfites which can result in a soapy flavor and pitted shells. Usually prawns with these issues never make it to US markets, but if you want to be safe look for shrimp labeled chemical free.
When it comes to how to cook tiger prawns, there are countless prawn recipes and a wide variety of ways to prepare and serve them. The most traditional way to serve tiger prawns is of course as hors d'oeuvres in shrimp cocktails. Other common ways of cooking tiger prawns include grilling them on skewers and in pastas. No matter what way you choose to cook them make sure to keep a close eye on them as to not over cook them. The last thing you want is tough over cooked tiger prawns. When you buy prawns online from a gourmet seafood supplier they will usually come with a cookbook that is packed full of mouth watering ways to prepare and serve them.
Tiger prawns should be eaten within 2 days of thawing them, however if for some reason you can't eat them once thawed they will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator when tightly sealed in plastic wrap. Refreezing them is generally not a good idea as they will come out tough and dry.