When it’s served at Long John Silvers! I just saw an ad for LJS’ new “Buttered Lobster Bites,” basically a carton of popcorn-chicken-like-crustacean-parts for $2.99. Careful listeners may have paused when they heard that the lobster was “real langostino lobster.” Huh? Now I know my lobster. In fact, I created the world’s premier lobster site years ago while bored, working for the US Embassy in Belgium. However, even I, the great De Kreeft (The Lobster, as I was known in Dutch) was uncertain of which beast this referred to.
Well a little internet sleuthing proved that others also had their “BS meters raised to 11” when they heard this, like fellow blogger H.C. Hodge here.
Long story short, “langostino lobster” is an FDA approved term that can refer to Cervimunida johni, Pleuroncodes monodon, or Munida gregaria. Commonly referred to as squat lobsters, they grow no more than 3 inches long and live in sediment. They are more closely related to hermit crabs than true crabs and are in a different infraorder altogether from lobsters. As Hodge points out, the term “mud bugs” probably does not have quite the same marketing appeal.
Couldn’t find any good pictures of Munida gregaria, but suffice it to say this little fellow is no more delicious looking than his fellow FDA approved buddies. On a side note, the North American lobster is not much of a looker herself, but I’m sure your average Long John Silver patron would draw a line between lobster and Munida gregaria, regardless of what lobby convinced the FDA to certify otherwise.