Huge, luscious BC spot prawns are one of the most delicious things to be found in the waters around Vancouver. Sweet, firm, peachy-pink and tender, the prawns are sustainably harvested by local fishermen, which means I get to enjoy eating them and feel all cozy and self-righteous about it. Score. The brief spot prawn season is on right now, and will only last for another two weeks or so. I trundled down to Fishermen’s Wharf near Granville Island to get my fix.
The prawn boat was impossible to miss. Chunks of cardboard with PRAWNS! scrawled in magic marker and zap-strapped to the seawall railings pointed the way to the boat itself with its gigantic LIVE PRAWNS! sign. I bought my crustaceans from Steve Johansen of Organic Ocean, who’s there as part of the BC Spot Prawn festival. Sponsored by the wharf and the aquarium’s Oceanwise program, the festival promotes locally sourced, sustainable seafood as an alternative to farmed Southeast Asian prawns, and encourages consumers to buy directly from fishermen.
A pound of prawns cost $12. Steve kindly demonstrated how to decapitate them while still alive–just grip either side of the neck joint and twist. It was surprisingly easy. Visceral, but in a good I’m-connecting-with-the-cycle-of-life way, not in a gory way. I froze the heads to use for seafood broth later on. Steve also sells containers of tails frozen in sea water for $20. I’ve heard live spot prawns can be had for a bit less at T&T supermarkets, but there’s something charming about strolling down to the wharf on a sunny day and buying a bag of live seafood, antennae are still waving in the wind, straight from the boat they were caught on.
Spot prawns are natural fast food: they cook in two minutes in a pot of boiling water. The meat was intensely sweet and tender, without even a hint of fishiness. I ate them with melted garlic butter, new potatoes, and green salad from the West End farmer’s market. Fresh, local, organic, sustainable, ridiculously delicious, and cheaper than even a low-end restaurant meal–what more could I want? If only the season lasted for more than eight weeks!
BC Spot Prawn Festival
1505 West 1st Avenue
Northwest of Granville Island, between the Burrard Street Bridge and the Granville Street Bridge
Boats arrive between 4:30 and 5:30 daily, and on Saturdays around 2:00
Photo of False Creek and the Spot Prawn Festival by Ruth and Dave from the BR Photo Pool.