Seared, steamed, grilled and raw for sushi, B.C. spot prawns are on many of the best West Coast menus, whether they’re served in Vancouver restaurants, by chefs in Kelowna and Calgary or on a wild beach in Tofino.
Vancouver chefs were the first to shine the spotlight on this sustainable species of cold-water shrimp—once primarily fished for customers in Japan. Prawns are the most-popular seafood in North America, but sadly, most of the millions of pounds we consume every year come from unsustainable sources, mainly in Asia where farming destroys coastal mangroves and trawling scars sea beds. The West Coast spot prawn (Pandalus platyceros) is a carnivorous creature that, like lobster or crab, is caught in a baited trap, an environmentally sustainable form of fishing.
Canada’s own coastal crustacean, the spot prawn, is only fished in May and June. At this time of year, Vancouver fisherman Steve Johansen delivers his catch of wriggling pink prawns to the downtown docks every afternoon. Buy them live to cook at home for about $10 to $12 per pound. Or head to local restaurants that serve this OceanWise seafood, such as C, Vij’s, Refuel, Bishop’s and Bluewater Café.
Annual spot prawn festivals have helped bring the indigenous shrimp into our collective consciousness, giving Canadians across the country a chance to sample this special treat.
The Chefs’ Table Society of B.C. celebrates the season with the Spot Prawn Festival across B.C. The granddaddy of the spot prawn parties happens every spring next to Granville Island at False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf. Join locals who line up at this outdoor event for dishes prepared by local chefs on May 5.
Feast! Tofino, May 18 to June 2, is a seafood festival featuring boat-to-table cuisine at restaurants and hotels including Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Long Beach Lodge and Wickaninnish Inn. Meet visiting chefs and enjoy tastings on a Tofino dock. One entire week May 19 to 26 is devoted to spot prawns.
The B.C. Shellfish Festival is the largest shellfish festival on the West Coast. Head to Comox Marina Park on June 15 and 16 for entertainment, chefs’ cooking demos, oyster shucking contests and tastings.