The annual spot prawn season is now in full swing, with at least another four weeks of availability.
For those of you wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s a little recap on what makes this little crustacean such a big deal, and some suggestions for spot-on dining.
The spot prawn is one of seven species of cold-water shrimp available on the West Coast. Cold-water shrimp are fast-growing, with high reproductive capacity, making them less vulnerable to depletion through fishing. They are also caught using baited traps on long lines, so the by-catch is low (meaning no dolphins in your bisque).
Spot prawns are on the large size, with a firm, sweet flesh that takes kindly to all manner of preparation, from ceviche to grilled, boiled and bisque’d. They require very little in the way of washing or prepping, and the heads are as tasty as the tails.
If you’re wondering how to prepare these at home, pick up your fresh spot prawns from Fisherman’s Wharf on Granville Island or at your local fishmonger’s on the same day you want to eat them. If they are very fresh, they will keep in the fridge for a day or two, but the sooner you eat them, the tastier they’ll be. Give them a solid rinse, and then decide on whether to boil, barbecue or fry. With the good weather coming, this could be the perfect outdoor grill item, especially if you save the heads for deep-frying later (thanks to my friend Ryan for that tip). They cook incredibly fast, so keep your eye on them — a few seconds on a grill and off they go.
Here are a few suggestions for spot prawn dining:
Sit at the bar on any Saturday in May (reservations required) for the $65 three-course spot prawn boil. Includes watercress and potato salad, a large boil of spot prawns, housemade chorizo, clams and spring vegetables served directly on the bar over newspaper, and dessert.
1944 West 4 Ave.
A $35 three-course spot prawn and lobster menu lets you choose from seared spot prawns with mango piri-piri sauce, lobster bisque, lobster Thermidor, fresh spot prawns with cavaletti and lobster, and more.
1616 Alberni St.
Three courses for $49 or order a la carte items like spot prawn ceviche in citrus vinaigrette ($14), a half-pound of peel-and-eat spot prawns ($16), fresh B.C. lingcod with spot prawn tempura ($32) or grilled Queen Charlotte Island halibut with spot prawn risotto ($38).
1054 Alberni St.
Three courses for $65 or order à la carte items like spot prawn satay with turmeric, coconut cream and cucumber relish ($15), hot and sour spot prawn soup with lemongrass, galangal, and chilli jam ($14 for two people), or ceviche with fresh coriander, mint and nahm jim sauce.
1938 West 4 Ave.
The grand spot prawn tasting menu is $79 for a five-course menu and includes spot prawn sunomono, spot prawn bisque, spot prawn risotto with tomato consommé and sweet peas, and lamb shank with spot prawn.
2-1600 Howe St.
It’s fresh and light, with candied fruit flavours and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of tiny bubbles. Villa Teresa Rose Veneto is an organic bubbly that is light enough to enjoy on its own on these endless summer eves, or pair with light, chilled seafood, or alternately, snacks like roasted soy beans. BCLS $15.99.