Other Names: The French name “cigale de mer” means “sea cicada,” a reference to the noise the slipper lobster makes by clacking its claws, which sounds like the chirring of the cicada, an insect well-known in southern regions.
Identification & Biology: Despite their name, they are not true lobsters, but are more closely related to spiny lobsters and furry lobsters. Slipper lobsters are instantly recognizable by their enlarged antennae, which project forward from the head as wide plates. Some, such as the Moreton Bay bug and the Balmain bug are important food species.
From the same family as the Dublin Bay prawn (langoustine) and the Northern or American lobster, the slipper or flat lobster has a color that varies with its background, from dark brown to reddish brown to dark green, almost black. It is easily differentiated from the lobster since its claws are short. Its back is covered with small protuberances, a chitinous shell impregnated with calcium that makes it invisible among the rocks from which it emerges only at night.
Range & Habitat: Slipper lobsters are a family of achelate (clawless) decapod crustaceans found in all warm oceans and seas.
Buying Tips: The size of the slipper lobster is about 15 cm (6”) but the larger, less well-known variety, Scyllarus arctus, can attain a length of 45 cm (18”) and weigh 2 kg (4 lb.) In Marseille, it is called “chambris” and is sometimes included as an ingredient in bouillabaisse.
Recommended Preparation: In cooking, the slipper lobster is used mostly in fish soups. Large slipper lobsters can be prepared in the same way as langoustine or lobster, and have the same delicacy, but unfortunately they are quite rare.