Spot prawns are Mike’s absolute favourite seafood so now that it’s spot prawn season we’re going to be eating prawns like crazy. We love grilled prawns, but no patio means no grilling so I usually just pan-fry the prawns before tossing them in whichever dressing is tickling our fancy.
Spot prawns are delicious – sweet, tender and extremely meaty, in a good way. They taste fantastic with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon, but lately we’ve been enjoying our prawns tossed in a Vietnamese-esque dressing of lime, fish sauce, sugar, chilis and cilantro.
Spot prawn season is really big here – all the restaurants start featuring spot prawns and there’s even a festival. You can pretty much buy them anywhere when they’re in season. We bought our first batch of spot prawns at Whole Foods. They weren’t live – they actually had their heads taken off, but they were still tasty.
Even though the Whole Foods prawns were delicious, with seafood fresh is always best, so Mike and I decided to go down to the docks for our next batch. They sell them to you fresh off the boat; they’re literally still alive and jumping. The prawners that I bought from were a bit strange – maybe they smoked a little too much “seaweed”? Anyway, one of them threw a small prawn into the ocean where it just floated for a while.
Me: Oh no, he’s dead!
Prawn Man: Don’t worry, he’ll make his way back out there.
Me: Uh, he’s not swimming.
Prawn Man: Holy mackerel! Did you see that?!
All of a sudden a bunch of fish attacked the poor prawn. It was pretty crazy. All the prawn men crowded around to watch the poor prawn get eaten.
I know it’s crazy, but I felt a little sorry for the prawn. Double standard, I know. I have this dilemma with eating fresh seafood. I love it, but I’m not able to…how do I say this nicely…kill it. I tried to chop the head off one of the prawns that was nice and still, but as soon as I got close, it’s antenna started moving like crazy! I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t take the knife to the prawn.
A quick google search told me that putting the prawns in the freezer for twenty or so minutes would put them to sleep so they wouldn’t feel any pain. I’m not too sure if I believe that, but non-moving prawns are a lot easier to deal with than twitchy ones.
Live prawns are a bit more work than the prawns from Whole Foods. But, there is a definite taste difference: live prawns are sweeter, plumper and juicier. I guess you just have to get your hands a little dirty if you’re going to eat the good stuff.
Spot Prawns with Lime and Cilantro Recipe
- 1 pound spot prawns, or other large prawns, shell-on
- zest of 1 lime
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced
- 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Prepare your prawns: use a pair of kitchen shears to cut through the back of the shell. Cutting through the shell lets you de-vein the prawn easily. In a large bowl, mix together the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the zest, chill and cilantro. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Heat up a cast iron over medium-high heat. Add a bit of olive oil to the pan. When hot, add the prawns and cook without moving for 2 minutes. Flip and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, until pink and firm. Toss the shrimp in the dressing. Enjoy hot.