This was one of my favorite foods growing up. My mom would always make shrimp cocktail during the summer and it was always so refreshing with the loads of pepino (cucumber) she would put in it. But, as much as I loved eating it, I did not love helping her clean the shrimp while she prepared the cocktail. Let me tell you, if you’ve never cleaned raw shrimp before, consider yourself lucky. First, you have to take off their shells and then remove the slimy, dark line (which is yes, you guessed it… sh**) off of their bodies.
You would think cleaning the sh** off of the ‘ocean’s cockroach’ would scar somebody and make them never want to eat such a disgusting sea creature…. but, no (besides my sister Crystal who gags at the thought of ever eating shrimp…props to her for seeing it for what it really is). Even after being grossed out every time I helped my mom clean the shrimp, my mouth would still water in anticipation for the cocktail. Squeeze a few limes into it, douse it in hot sauce (Tabasco to be exact), crumble up a few saltine crackers, and there it is… my favorite cold, seafood summer soup.
So, of course I don’t eat shrimp cocktail now that I’m vegan. I used to crave it while I was vegetarian and I would eventually give into my cravings. That changed after I learned about the devastating ecological impacts of shrimp. Shrimp are either farmed or wild caught, and both are extremely destructive to ecosystems and species that depend on them (including humans). Here are some fun facts about where the shrimp in the grocery stores and at restaurants come from:
- Wild caught shrimp require trawling, a highly destructive fishing method that literally scrapes the ocean floor with a huge net1 The nets capture every sea creature in their paths (anything that isn’t a shrimp is called ‘by catch’). The amount of by catch ranges from 5-20 pounds per pound of shrimp which means almost everything that is caught by these nets, dies, and the areas of the ocean floor that are destroyed may take decades to millennia to recover.
- Trawling is like destroying a huge section of a rainforest in order to find one bird.
- Shrimp farming has resulted in the destruction of 38 percent of the world’s mangroves2, which are extremely important, carbon-capturing, diverse ecosystems that buffer against hurricanes and tsunamis.
- Farmed shrimp require large amounts of antibiotics, pesticides, and a soup of other harmful chemicals.
After I learned these things and how most shrimp imported to the U.S. comes from countries across the globe in god knows what kinds of conditions, my appetite for the little ocean bottom feeder ended. And after I came across vegetable substitutes for dishes with shrimp, such as these artichoke hearts in this shrimp cocktail, I was convinced that our demand for shrimp isn’t necessary to have delicious meals (of course there are many people I know who would disagree with this statement due to their obsession with shrimp). But if you’re having trouble kicking the shrimp cravings like I did, visit this site to help you find shrimp choices that aren’t as crappy for the environment or try adding vegetables like hearts of palm, mushrooms, or artichoke hearts in place of shrimp in your favorite dishes.
I found this recipe on http://www.dorastable.com but made a few adjustments to it to make it more of how I grew up eating it. If you enjoy this recipe or completely hate it (which I highly doubt you will), let me know by commenting down below. You will be surprised by the power of vegetables!
Mexican Vegan Shrimp Cocktail
- 2 (14 oz) cans Artichoke hearts in water, drained
- 2 Cucumbers
- 1 White onion
- 1 sheet Roasted seaweed (nori), aprox. 3 tbsp
- 1 bunch Cilantro
- 1 Avocado
- 1 serrano pepper deseeded (optional)
- Baked tostadas, saltine crackers, tortilla chips or whatever you prefer for serving
For the sauce
- 1 28 oz can Tomato puree (If you can’t find this, just blend can of tomatoes)
- 2.5 cups Vegetable juice
- 1 tbsp Ketchup
- 1/2 cup Orange juice
- 2 tbsp Soy Sauce or Liquid Aminos
- 2 tbsp Vegan Worcestershire
- Juice from 3 limes or to taste
- 1 tsp Fresh ground pepper
- Hot sauce, to taste
- Dash of salt
- Finely dice artichoke, cucumbers, onion, avocado, cilantro, and serrano pepper. The Nori can be torn apart into small pieces by hand. If you’re low on time, place all of the veggies in a food processor.
- In a large bowl, combine the veggies and the sauce ingredients. Mix well and let it chill in the fridge, covered, for at least 30 mins. The more you let it sit, the more flavorful it will be.
- Enjoy with your favorite hot sauce!