As the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel glimmers ahead, we welcome the opening of the 2021 B.C. live spot prawn season on May 15.
Chef Angus An of Maenam, Canada’s finest Thai restaurant, speaks for many of us when he says, “Spot prawns are one of my favourite delicacies from our local waters.”
On the Pacific coast, the terms prawn and shrimp are often used interchangeably, but in commercial usage shrimp are the smaller species and prawns the larger, ranging in size from 2 to 8 inches. Like all crustaceans, they change colour from gray-green to bright pink or red when cooked.
To buy supremely fresh spot prawns, visit the Organic Ocean vessel at False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf at Granville Island, where the new chief culinary officer, award-winning chef Rob Clark, has still more recipes to share.
Stir-Fried Black-Pepper Spot Prawns
Deep-frying prawns with a light cornstarch slurry protects them from overcooking. This recipe also works well with sidestripe prawns. (Adapted from Maenam: A Fresh Approach to Thai Cooking by Angus An, Appetite by Random House)
3 cups (750 mL) vegetable oil or as needed for deep-frying
2 cups (500 ml) cornstarch
2 tbsp (25 mL) freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) plus 1 tsp (5 mL) coarse sea salt (divided)
1 lb (500 g) live B.C. spot prawns (or prawns of your choice)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 red Thai bird’s eye chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 fresh cilantro roots or stems, roughly chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) fish sauce
¼ cup (50 mL) fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup (50 mL) finely sliced green onions
If you’ve purchased live prawns, submerge them for a few seconds in cold unfiltered tap water, then remove them immediately — this is the easiest and most humane preparation method.
Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with layers of paper towel and set a rack over it. Heat canola oil to 350 degrees F in a deep fryer or a large, heavy pot over medium high heat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1 cup water to form a slurry. Add the pepper and 2 tablespoons salt and continue whisking until the slurry is the consistency of thick cream.
Dredge the prawns in the slurry three at a time (see Kitchen Hack), coating evenly, and carefully lower them into the hot oil. Cook, agitating and flipping shrimp frequently until crispy, and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes total. Carefully remove from oil and transfer to rack.
Meanwhile, grind garlic, chilies, cilantro root and remaining teaspoon salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle or mini food processor.
Heat vegetable oil in a wok over medium-high heat and stir-fry paste until golden and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add fried prawns and fish sauce and toss to coat. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro leaves and green onion and serve immediately.
Spot Prawn Pasta with Lemon Cream
This recipe from Seattle chef and cookbook author Kathy Casey, takes advantage of the harmonic convergence of spot prawn, local asparagus and wild morel mushroom seasons. Adapted from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books.
12 oz (350 g) dried linguine pasta
1 cup (250 g) thinly sliced morel or cremini mushrooms (4 to 5 oz)
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh garlic
1/8 tsp (.5 mL) red pepper flakes
¼ cup (50 mL) clam juice
¼ cup (50 mL) lemon juice
¼ cup (50 mL) dry white wine
1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
1 cup (250 mL) diagonally sliced asparagus (1 inch pieces)
½ cup (125 mL) shelled fresh peas or frozen petite peas
½ cup (125 mL) julienned red bell pepper
1 lb (500 mL) spot prawns or other large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced lemon zest
3 tbsp (50 mL) finely sliced fresh chives
Freshly ground pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions until just al dente. Drain well, toss with a splash of olive oil and salt to taste and cover to keep warm.
While the pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over high heat. Sauté mushrooms until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and sauté 30 seconds more.
Add clam juice, lemon juice and wine, and simmer to reduce to one-fourth of the original volume, about 2 minutes. Whisk in cream. Stir in asparagus, peas, bell pepper, prawns and lemon zest, and simmer for 2 minutes.
Add cooked pasta to pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until sauce coasts pasta and liquid is almost all absorbed. Toss in 2 tablespoons of the chives and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the pasta among 4 warm dinner plates and garnish with remaining chives.
Makes 4 servings
It’s tedious to individually dip prawns or shrimp in batter before deep-frying, and the cooked shellfish are hard to pickup with batter-covered tails. Solve both problems by tucking the tails of three peeled and deveined shellfish between the fingers of one hand, forming a loose fist around the tails and dipping them all at once into the batter.