Our own boats catch live prawns during the spot prawn season in May and June. We deliver live prawns to the store daily during the fresh season. We also process and freeze high quality spot prawn tails that we sell year round. We take great care in processing and freezing our product to maximize flavor and shelf life. Check our website for availability of fresh prawns or come by anytime for frozen tubs.
A local treasure
From our local waters comes one of the true delicacies of the sea – spot prawns (Pandalus platyceros). In recent years 90 percent of the prawn harvest was shipped overseas (primarily to Japan and lately China). The spot prawn is the largest of 7 species that are fished in our waters and can exceed 23 cm (9 inches) in length. These prawns are identified by the reddish brown shell with white horizontal lines and two white spots on the first and fifth shell segments. The fishery is rated as sustainable and continually monitored and managed in a responsible way.
Spot prawns have been rated as Green by the Sea Choice organization (a watch dog group concerned with the health of our fisheries and oceans). There are seven commercially caught species of shrimp found in Canada’s west coast waters. All coldwater shrimp are fast-growing, short-lived, and have a high reproductive capacity, making these species less vulnerable to fishing pressure.
Spot prawn fishermen along the B.C. coast use baited traps on long lines attached to buoys. The amount of other species that inadvertently end up in these prawn traps as by-catch is relatively low. This gear type is also associated with relatively low habitat damage.
From the culinary point of view, these prawns are a real treat. The flesh is very sweet and when fresh off the boats has a pleasant crunch and flavor that is truly magical. The fresh prawns are sold head on. These must be processed or eaten the same day for the best results. There is an enzyme in the head that starts to breakdown the flesh of the prawn eventually. If you’ve ever eaten a spot prawn that breaks down and dissolves into mush – you’ve experienced the work of this enzyme.
To process the prawns, remove the head (easily done in a twisting motion). The tails can then be stored in a container filled with water (salt water is often used – or tap water with a spoonful of salt added). The water helps protect the prawns from freezer burn; in fact prawns stored in this manner will last up to two years with no discernible loss of quality. Keep the heads. Roasted in the oven they will make the base for a great prawn bisque. And try to get rid of the discarded shells as soon as possible, they will start to decay and leave a room filling funk in no time.
In many ways the simpler the preparation the better; poached in boiling salted water for no more than 2 minutes and served with a dip of garlic butter is still the ultimate dining experience! We also recommend them skewered and fired onto the barbecue or try a ceviche recipe. But of course, chefs are compelled to come up with clever and seductive ways of preparation and local restaurants excel in using our bounty of spot prawns.