British Columbia Spot Prawns are known around the world for their freshness, quality, and amazing flavour. Their meat has a sweet delicate flavour and firm texture that chefs love.
Wild prawns are a short-lived, complex species and a tasty, popular shellfish. As part of their reproductive processes prawns transition from male to female halfway through their 4-year lifecycle. Pacific prawn fisheries are seasonally monitored and managed for population health to ensure sustainable fishing opportunities for all licenced prawn harvesters throughout the region.
Latin name: Pandalus platyceros
Spot Prawns are found along the Pacific Coast of North America from San Diego along Southern California to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska; they are also found in the Sea of Japan to the Korean Straight.
Prawns live in subtidal sandy and rocky habitats. Fished by trap, prawns are typically harvested from ocean depths ranging from 50 to 150 meters (165 to 500'), although they can be found from the low intertidal to a maximum recorded depth of 2648m (8700').
Spot Prawns feed on other shrimp, worms, sponges, small molluscs, fish carcasses and plankton. They are a favorite food of octopuses and some rockfish species.
Spot prawns can grow to a total length of 27cm long (8.5").
Their carapace is translucent red-orange with white stripes on thorax, and distinctive white spots on sides of first and fifth abdominal segments. They have 5 pairs of swimming legs (pleopods) and 5 pairs of walking legs (pereopods).
Spot prawns are called protandrous hermaphrodites because they start their lives as males, then transform into females.
After hatching from an egg carried on their mothers pleopod, prawn larvae will live in the water column for up to three months before settling to the ground.
Once settled, the prawns will all live as males until they reach maturity at around 2 years. The males will reproduce once then gradually (over about 8 months) transform into females during their third year.
In their third year, females will reproduce and carry eggs on their pleopods for about 6 months before the eggs hatch and the cycle continues.
Prawns are available live, fresh, fresh landed then frozen, and frozen-at-sea (FAS). Fresh and frozen prawns are available whole or tailed (head and thorax removed).
Fresh prawns are only available during the commercial season which opens May and typically runs until mid-June.
Per 100 grams (3.5 oz) of raw edible portion
Calories (cal) 85
Fat (g) 0.4
Protein (g) 20
Cholesterol (mg) 145
Sodium (mg) 112
When buying live Wild BC Spot Prawns look for lively, almost translucent prawns. The tail should be straight in line with the head. The head should be firm to touch, with no black colouration.
If the prawn is pink in colour, with the tail curled under the head, it is not freshly harvested.
If the head is showing a black colour the meat has started to deteriorate already. If the prawn head is soft or mushy when touched, the meat will also be mushy.
Wild BC Spot Prawns come from cold Pacific waters. After buying your prawns, immediately get them into a cooler or on ice. This will help prevent the prawn meat from deteriorating.
Wild BC Spot Prawns purchased “live” should be cooked immediately or have their heads removed as soon as possible. After the heads are removed the tails should be thoroughly rinsed. Spot prawns have an enzyme that begins to permeate through the tail and turns the meat mushy. Removing the head and rinsing the tail keeps the flesh firm. The head of the prawn can be removed from the tail by swiftly turning it and pulling it away from the tail.
Two important rules:
DO NOT put the live prawns into tap water. The chlorine and in our water system will immediately kill the prawns, speeding up the decline of the meat
DO NOT leave the prawns live for more than a few hours. The quality will deteriorate exponentially the longer they are left.
Preparing Live Wild BC Spot Prawns
Remove heads immediately.
Pack into a bowl or container of your choosing
Cover with ice and refrigerate to ensure prawns maintain their structure for up to three days
Pour off melted ice each day and replace.
Freezing Live Wild BC Spot Prawns
Remove the head and pack prawn tails loosely into a plastic container or ziploc bag. Completely cover tails with saline solution (1 tsp salt to 1.5 cup water) remembering that water expands as it freezes.
Frozen Wild BC Spot Prawns
Frozen Wild BC Spot Prawns that have been properly handled and processed are just as succulent and delicious as live prawns. They are a great option when live prawns are not available. Frozen Wild BC Spot Prawns are typically sold tail only, with the shell still on. They are packed into tubs and covered with salt water. Frozen prawns remain in good condition for up to six months in a residential freezer and up to 12 months in a commercial freezer. Thaw in refrigerator overnight, or thaw in a cool water bath an hour before use.
Removing the Shell
Wild BC Spot Prawns are often cooked shell on, but the shells are easily peeled off. Begin by tearing the legs away from the meat in a circular motion. To remove the fanned tail, gently squeeze the meat out of the bottom of the shell.
Cooking Wild BC Spot Prawns
Wild BC Spot Prawns can be prepared in any number of ways. The trick is to make sure they do not get overcooked. To ensure your prawns are just the right doneness, cook only one to two minutes or until the prawns just turn pink. This is applicable for whole or tails, live, fresh or frozen.
Remove heads immediately
Do not put prawns in tap water
Do not leave prawns live for more than a few hours
Freeze in saline
Do not overcook