Sweet, succulent and sustainable: B.C. spot prawns are a prized local delicacy. With a season that typically lasts just six to eight weeks, they’re also a get-’em-while-you-can precious commodity.
Every year, the Chefs’ Table Society of British Columbia celebrates the start of the season with the.
Beyond the Spot Prawn Festival that took place at the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf on May 19, local chefs worth their salt will be featuring spot prawns on their menus for as long as they can. Here are a few options.
Put on that cotton blue bib that’s on top of your linen napkin: At YEW seafood + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, executive chef Edgar Kano hosts a spot-prawn boil on May 23 and 26. The crustaceans, with the heads still on, along with Chilliwack corn and heirloom potatoes, all get put right on your table atop butcher paper for you to pick up with your fingers and peel. (There are tongs if you must.) To accompany them are buttered grilled asparagus, candied sweet potatoes, roasted zucchini with parmesan crust, charred-jalapeno cornbread, pineapple-chili jam, lemon-Old Bay aioli, roasted-shallot-and-garlic butter, and a glass of B.C. wine. The family-style meal also includes an individual grilled-onion-and baby-gem salad with pickled pomegranate, and, to finish, a pineapple upside-down torte with B.C. maple, almond crumble, and crème fraiche sorbet.
At Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Lobby Lounge and RawBar, in-house sushi chef Takayuki (Taka) Omi creates a spot-prawn extravaganza served atop banana leaves on a driftwood longboard made by Raven Timberworks. Available weekends for groups of two or more, the experience includes spot-prawn miso soup, West Coast oysters, and the star ingredient served in multiple ways: poached; in aburi rolls, ceviche, nigiri, poke, and oshizushi (pressed sushi in perfect rectangle shapes).
The meal also includes sablefish motoyaki roll (the fish baked and topped with mayonnaise), kampachi tataki (lightly seared), and more.
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is serving a pound of whole, poached spot prawns.
“I love spot prawns for a few reasons: They are delicious and the meat is sweet and soft in texture,” says executive chef Wayne Sych. “I believe simple preparation is best, as the flavour of spot prawns really speaks for itself. I personally don’t like to overcomplicate them by adding too many elements. Simply poached for 60 to 90 seconds with butter, lemon, and herbs such as dill or chives makes for an easily prepared but highly flavourful dish. The season is short, so take advantage of it.”
Vij’s chef/co-owner Meeru Dhalwala is making marinated spot prawns with roasted and mashed eggplant on grilled bell pepper.
“It’s a recipe from our last cookbook, and it is probably the most popular and original spot prawn dish we’ve ever done,” Dhalwala says. “It’s perfect because right now I’ve got B.C. eggplants and bell peppers galore coming in from Vancouver Farmers Market Direct. I keep the spices at a minimum but make sure they are still dancing around the dish. I roast and mash the eggplant and add finely chopped green onions, tomatoes and cumin. The prawns are marinated in cumin, turmeric and a bit of cayenne. The bell pepper is grilled at service when the dish is ordered.”
Cacao will be serving spot prawns with chimichurri sauce for its Latin American-style barbecue every Saturday. The set menu includes various meats, such as blood sausage and chicken cooked on an open fire grill, or parrilla, that will be set up on the Kitsilano restaurant’s sidewalk patio.
El Santo, a contemporary Mexican restaurant in New Westminster, will be changing its features throughout the season, beginning with angelica- and cascabel-chili-glazed spot prawns grilled over charcoal and served on a bed of Zaklan Heritage Farms baby gem lettuce.
The feature dish at Globe@YVR and Jetside Lounge at Fairmont Vancouver Airport has spot prawns with ginger risotto, charred scallion puree, cauliflower, and garlic chips.
Dynasty Seafood Restaurant serves spot prawns sautéed with soy sauce, garlic, and onion, while at Maenam, spot prawn ceviche consists of crispy head and raw body with Thai herbs and tangy nam jim dressing.
Blue Water Café’s executive chef Frank Pabst has a few spins on spot prawns: nigiri, sashimi, and in a dish with white asparagus, puffed garnet beet tapioca, and strawberry vinaigrette.