Friday, May 28, 2010

BC Spot Prawns - a sustainable choice

BC Spot Prawns

Spot prawn (Pandalus platyceros) season started here early in the month so by now, you should be able to get a good deal at any local supermarket. I've found them for around $8 dollars at T&T and other Asian markets. They are also available at the False Creek Fisherman's Wharf, but at a premium. Supposedly you'll get fresher and bigger specimens, but I've never compared.

As food, spot prawns have a prominent sweet note with an interestingly firm texture. When cooking them, I tend to keep it simple. Most of the time, I steam or boil them plain just until the tails turn white. Occasionally, I will cook them with garlic and cooking wine or dip them in a lemon pepper mixture. The key is to not overpower the natural flavours of the shrimp.

My favourite part to eat has always been the "head". Anatomically, that part of the prawn contains the hepatopancreas (digestive gland) which is an organ that contains functions similar to the mammalian liver and pancreas. In lobsters and crabs, the hepatopancreas is commonly known as tomalley, the tasty green gooey paste.

BC Spot Prawns tomalley hepatopancreas anatomy

So, why are they a sustainable choice?

Populations are tightly monitored and areas may be closed from fishing, hence the short and varying availability of live spot prawns.

There are also many restrictions and regulations on the number of licenses, number of traps, size of traps, specimen sizes, etc. A single haul policy allows smaller prawns to find their way out of traps.

Undersized and berried (egg bearing) prawns must be released. (Sometimes the prawns I've purchased have eggs though and I have to admit that they tasted good)

BC Spot Prawns are caught with traps that minimize bycatch (ie: fewer other things caught). Although habitat damage does happen when the traps bounce around on fragile corals and sponges, the impact is relatively low overall.

BC Spot Prawns

Fun facts about spot prawns:

90% of commercial catch is frozen and exported to Japan.
They start their lives as males and then transform into females during the last 1-2 years of life.


  1. I love Prawns, but I can never cook them as well as they do in restaurants. Any tips on cooking them?

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting.

    My only tip is to not overcook them! They are super easy to overcook. They are done just when their flesh turns white/opaque.

    I find steaming is more lenient if you over/undercook a little bit, but boiling will give you better control. It does take a bit of practice.

    It also depends on what you like. Some people refuse to overpower the flavour of prawns with extras, while others like them heavily drenched in sauces. Try some light cooking wine with minced garlic as a start.

  3. Oh, keep in mind that the restaurants often have an advantage of having fresher specimens! That's also a factor.