BC Spot Prawns: Seasonal Delicacy of British Columbia

One of the best things about seafood is its versatility. You can choose to prepare your favourite seafood in different ways. You could grill it, fry it, poach it or even bake it. Seafood in recent times has actually been proven to improve and prevent diseases and health risks like heart disease, cancer, depression and even mental cases. Of the various types of seafood, prawns are the easiest to incorporate into your weekly meals. Check out these Prawns which we are going to talk about known as the BC Spot Prawns and I bet that after reading this you would definitely want to try it out.

HISTORY

Records have it that BC (British Columbia) commercial prawn fishing started around 1914, but did not become a significant commercial fishing until the mid-1970’s. Using trap fishery method, it amounts to 98% of total spot prawn landings and is the most valuable shrimp fishery in BC. In 1979 about 50 commercial licenses were fished and this has grown to 900 licenses and 305 reported landings in 1989. Many spot prawn fishers reside all along the BC coast.

Since 1979, the fishery has been managed through a seasonal (winter) closure based on a set minimum escapement of adult female prawns (spawners, 3+ years old). The fishery typically targets these creatures in the final two years of their life cycle (2+ males, 3+females) monthly minimum spawner index. The spawner index is seen as central to the long-term conservation of the stock and is a vital part of in-season management. Prawns are landed incidentally in offshore fisheries for black cod, shrimp, and ground-fish. Although the actual distribution and abundance of this stock are unknown, these landings provide evidence for the existence of an offshore stock. Fishers have a stated interest in investigating offshore fishing areas, but increased effort and efficiency have decreased inshore season length to the point where explorative fishing opportunities.

AVAILABILITY

The BC Spot Prawn season runs through the month of May to the end of June each year, normally 8 weeks long. The BC Spot Prawn Festival at the False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf normally indicates that the season has started.

I haven’t been to this specific festival, but I’ve heard many good things about it from locals.

This year I went to the False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf with my family. The boats normally dock at 12pm and it is recommended to arrive early due to the lineups. The arrival of the boats is normally staggered between 12pm-4pm. So on rare occasions, if you arrive late, you may have to wait for the other boats to arrive for availability.

Unfortunately, this season (2016) has come to an early end due to ecological concerns. Keeping this delicacy sustainable is the fisheries main priority. Local farmers markets and of course T&T Supermarket carried some stock of the BC Spot Prawns, up to 1 week after the early season closure.

 

PURCHASING AND HANDLING

There are many things to consider when purchasing live BC Spot Prawns. So I did a little research and applied some of that knowledge at the docks.

What do I look for to determine the freshness of the live BC Spot Prawn?

Look: The look of the spot prawns’ body must be a translucent pink colour. The tail should be straight and head should have no black discoloration.

BC Spot Prawns are $20 per pound. If you look closely at the blue basket, that is how much 2.7 pounds get you

 

If the body looks white and/or has black spots, then it’s old or deteriorating. Obviously, there should be white spots visible.

Feel: The head should be firm and body should not feel soft or mushy. They should be well alive and be moving.

Smell: BC Spot Prawns should not smell fishy or have any scent of ammonia. The ammonia smell is a sign that the prawn is past its prime in freshness.

 

Handling:

Place spot prawns immediately on the ice, after buying them from the docks. This helps keep it fresh for a bit longer and prevent the release of the enzyme that comes from the head, which deteriorates the flesh.

As soon as you get home, remove the heads by firmly grabbing the tail and head, giving it a twist and firm pull. Immediately place the tails(body) on the ice. This will prevent the enzyme from spreading to the tail.

My recommendation is to cook the prawns within 2 hours from getting them from the docks. Also, DO NOT soak prawns in tap water for this will speed up the decomposing process of the prawns. Our water has chlorine and other additives that are foreign to the spot prawn’s natural habitat.

Price: 2016 season was $20 per pound, roughly 8-10 pieces per pound. Be careful with prices over $30 or with prices that are too good to be true. PhotoGrid_1465320659647Some places purchase their prawns from the United States and market them here in BC, so be careful with outside markets other than our local boats. I would recommend purchasing them from the False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf or at Granville island.

“When it comes to BC Spot Prawns,
fresher is better” – Chuck

 

FACTS

The black spots found on the body or head of the prawns is an enzyme that is released when the spot prawn starts deteriorating. This is triggered when the temperature of the spot prawn drops, removed from its original habitat/water or when the prawn is dying or already dead.

The BC Spot Prawns found in supermarkets like T&T, Superstore and so on, have been handled a few times before reaching the store. 1-day max equals still fresh and after that, there’s a possibility that the quality has gone down drastically due to the enzyme being released for decomposing. The docks provide the best chance option of freshness, straight from the water to the customer.

 

TO COOK OR NOT TO COOK?

Did you know BC Spot Prawns could be eaten raw? Make sure you buy the freshest BC Spot Prawns from the docks and handle them properly when transporting.

Look at this video as the boat owner takes a fresh BC Spot Prawn and prepares it raw for a customer in the line.

*Did that guy just pull out a bottle of soy sauce?*

 

Eating it raw aka “Sashimi” style is an experience that I think people should try. It is the same as the prawns (ebi) served at Japanese restaurants. I have tried eating 15 of them raw, the taste is very clean and sweet. I’ve tried dipping the raw tails in lemon soy sauce, lemon or lime juice, hot sauce and even vinegar.

BC Spot Prawns are grilled, steamed, pan-fried, boiled and even prepared raw.

A few people have mentioned to me about deveining the prawn tail before consuming it. Personally, it doesn’t bother me. If you have the spare time, go ahead and devein them.

Prawns normally cook fast and are easy to overcook them. I cook them 2 minutes on each side when I pan fry them. Adding a little lemon juice at the end gives your dishes a boost in flavours.

 

What do you do with the heads?

I was told that you could fry them….so I did! Take the heads off by pulling the body from it and immediately toss them in corn starch. Deep fry them in hot oil until the shell looked bright orange and crispy. Some people think that this is disgusting but the fried heads are actually delicious and crunchy. Just be careful not to pop the whole thing in your mouth because the head contains a sac with a black liquid in it (similar to squid ink). It may give a bad taste if you eat this.

Prawn heads in many Asian countries are used in sauces. They are mashed in a bowl and then the paste is separated from the shells. The paste is ready to use in sauces, stir-fries, fried rice and soups.

 

Remember to…

 

  1. Attend the BC Spot Prawn Festival next year in 2017(I might see you there).
  2. Buy them fresh and alive from the docks.
  3. Inspect the BC Spot Prawns for freshness.
  4. Know your stuff and always ask questions from the vendors.
  5. Transport them immediately to your home.
  6. Do not soak them in “Tap Water”.
  7. Remove the heads ASAP!
  8. Try one “Sashimi” style.
  9. Do not overcook them, 2 minutes max on each side depending on heat source.
  10. Enjoy this experience and the food coma following that, lol.

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    Never soak these bad boys in water