Langostino is a Spanish word meaning prawn but this term is commonly used in the restaurant trade to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn.
Identification & Biology: Squat lobsters are decapod crustaceans, of the families Galatheidae and Chirostylidae, including the common genera Galathea and Munida. They are not lobsters at all, but are more closely related to porcelain crabs, hermit crabs, and then, more distantly, true crabs. They are also much smaller than lobsters that can be legally harvested. (Squat lobsters’ arms can grow to be several times their body length.)
Range & Habitat: Alaska to Baja California, at depths from 60 to 4,800 feet (18-1,463 meters)
Market Description: In the US, the FDA allows “langostino” as an acceptable market name for two species: Cervimunida johni, and Pleuroncodes monodon. These two species are both less than three inches long, and weigh about 0.4 lbs or less. They are both very different from the animal traditionally referred to as lobster.
Buying Tips: Flesh from these animals is often commercially sold in restaurants as langostino lobster, or sometimes called merely “lobster” when incorporated in seafood dishes (although both uses are considered by some to be ethically dubious).
Recommended Preparation: Very versatile, this rich sweet morsel of pure lobster tail meat can be prepared in a wide variety of ways – sautéed, fried, boiled or poached. Squat lobsters are an affordable alternative to higher priced shellfish, and can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for lobster, shrimp, or crab.