I spent 30+ minutes looking up ‘Spot Prawns’ in food dictionaries and food lover’s guides but to no avail. Two possibilities: These are old edition books; the spot prawns are not yet discovered in other parts of the culinary world, except Japan and China.
Spot prawns are adored over Japan and China. Most of all, our Asian friends don’t mind paying double or triple the price to get them. They have been major exporters of fresh spot prawns when in season and the main reason why only a small portion of BC Spot Prawns stay here for us to enjoy. Japanese name them “Ama Ebi” referring to the sweet flavour. In China, it’s called ‘Peony Prawns’, aptly so for their large size, reddish-brown shells and long tentacles. Live ones, when turned upside down; do look like gorgeous blooms of peony. Thanks to the Chefs Table Society of BC who had a profound conversation with the Spot Prawn fishermen and came to an important agreement. British Columbians can access to these live-from-the ocean prawns locally in markets and eateries during the annual 6 – 8 weeks of spot prawn season, and to enjoy them under the ocean-wise and sustainability regime. The Spot Prawn Festival was created 9 years ago to work as the platform to educate the general public and as an annual celebration to welcome the season.
Taken place at Fisherman’s Wharf off False Creek last Sunday, the festival is the gist of the short spot prawn season which would last until early July. For the first time this year, 2 Asian chefs: Chef Ken Liang of Ken’s Chinese Restaurant and Chef Scott Kwan of Kaya Malay Bistro were invited to come on board to cook those fresh-off-the-boat prawns on stage. While Asian chefs demonstration authentic Asian dishes are not a common public scene (even on food network); they did indeed wow the crowd with mystifying Asian cooking technique and unusual flavours.
Chef Liang is known for its creative Cantonese and Hong Kong-style recipes using local ingredients. His restaurant’s popularity reached its paramount when Conde Nast Traveller declared Vancouver’s Chinese cuisine the best in the world and enlisted Chef Liang’s Golden Dungeness Crab as one of the must-have dishes. The magic, according to Liang, is the live seafood tank, the unique seasoning, cooking method and wok energy. Same can be said about the spot prawns. This time, Liang takes advantage of a locally-grown vegetable, the mighty kale to shine with the magnificent prawns. “Both are sensational! The sweet, succulent and meaty BC spot prawns and the superfood kale! They are easy to cook, delicious to eat and guarantee 100% satisfaction to your palate and stomach.”
The soon to be 3 year old Kaya has managed to collect astounding accolades in a short time, including Best Malaysian Restaurant Awards granted by Georgia Straight and West Ender. A Canadian with Malaysian and Chinese background, Chef Kwan credits his cooking skill to his mom and a chef friend whom he worked with for a long time. Kwan chose his made-by-scratch sambal sauce using his mom’s complex S.E. Asian spicy paste recipe. Coated with the golden and aromatic sambal sauce, the spot prawns were beyond finger-licking good.
Here are their recipes.
Chef Scott Kwan - Kaya Malay Bistro
Sambal-styled Spot Prawns香芒沙巴牡丹蝦
Serves 3 - 4 with plain rice
Ingredients for Sambal Sauce:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 lemongrass, white part only, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. chopped galangal
1 tsp. chopped turmeric
1 fresh birds- eye chili pepper
4 pcs candlenuts (can be substituted with walnut)
2 Tbsp. shrimp paste
1 tsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp. dried shrimps peels
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 lbs. spot prawns
1 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. tomato sauce (ketchup)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. white wine
1 cup mango, cut into ½” chunks
½ cup chopped Chinese cilantro (optional)
- For the Sambal Sauce: Place all ingredients in a food processer and blend until it forms into a paste.
- Heat wok on high until red-hot. Add olive oil, shrimp peels, sugar, salt and ground pepper. Mix well.
- Add paste, stir and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add spot prawn, chili sauce, oyster sauce and tomato sauce. Stir and mix. Using a spatula, gently coat prawns with sauce.
- Cook each side for 45 to 60 seconds.
- Add water, soy and white wine. Mix well. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until prawns turn red.
- Add mango. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
- Transfer to a deep dish and garnish with cilantro.
Chef Ken Liang – Ken’s Chinese Restaurant
Poached Spot Prawns on a bed of Kale錦繡牡丹蝦
Serves 2 to 3 as an appetizer or as a main with plain rice
6 to 8 cups water (or enough to cover the prawns)
6 to 8 slices of ginger
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
½ ground black pepper
2 lbs. spot prawns
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 lb. kale, into 1” lengths
- In a large saucepan, bring water and ginger to a boil on high.
- In a wok, melt 1½Tbsp. butter on medium high heat, add garlic.
- Add kale. Stir and cook for 1 minute, add ½ tsp. salt and pepper. Stir well. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or to your desired softness.
- While kale is being cooked, water in saucepan should be boiling, Add remaining butter, salt and prawns. Cook for about 2 minutes or until prawns turn red.
- Transfer cooked kale to a dish.
- Using a slotted ladle, transfer prawns on top of kale.