3rd Annual Spot Prawn Festival

by gigi on May 9, 2009

UPDATE May 11, 2009: I’ve just discovered that the prawn tasting plates were available only on Saturday May 9 although the cooking demonstrations at Granville Island will still be taking place for 1 more day on May 16. Sorry for the confusion!

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Grick alerted me earlier this week that the 3rd annual Spot Prawn Festival was happening this weekend down by False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf. Spot prawns are a local BC specialty and best of all, are a sustainable option for us prawn lovers. This weekend marks the opening weekend of the eight week festival and featured prawn tastings from local celebrity chefs, live cooking demonstrations, and of course, spot prawns available for sale at $12/lb (sold after 1pm when the boats return).

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Jenkins and I coordinated to meet his parents at Granville Island since they wanted to check out the prawn tastings as well. We walked over to Fisherman’s Wharf around 1:30PM, where we were presented with a huge line-up of people waiting for the prawn tastings. The line was daunting, but I was determined to get what I came for. :)

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The tastings are available only on May 9, 10, and 16 and run from 12PM to 3PM so we were a bit concerned that everything was sold out by the time our turn came up. However, we were reassured by a voice over a loudspeaker that there were plenty of prawns to go around. :) Whew!

The prawn tastings cost $10 and you get your choice of 5 prawn samples out of the 10 that are available from a variety of local chefs. By the time it was our turn to make our selections, there were only 6 choices left so we did not have much of a choice. I was mostly disappointed because I wanted to try the sample from Tojo’s but they were cleaning up by the time it was my turn! :( My recommendation to you is to get there earlier than we did if you want to choose from the full selection.

My first selection was a crispy prawn head with a dab of mayo that was speared onto the poached prawn and a cube of watermelon. It seemed like an odd combination of flavours but I decided to give it a try. I’m not sure what was the best way to eat this but I started with the crunchy prawn head. The creamy mayo added just enough moisture to the crispy prawn head which had a really nice roasted flavour to it. I then finished it off with the poached prawn and the watermelon, which provided a nice texture contrast to the crispy head. I believed things were off to a good start. :)

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The next one I had was either from the Pear Tree or Bishop’s. Because they were sharing a table, I was not sure which one I was sampling. They had quite a few burners going and it smelled so good that I knew I would have to give this a try.

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The spot prawns were cooked in a kale broth and came with some gnocchi and greens. The flavour of the spot prawn really came through in this dish and contrasted with the woodsy flavour of the greens and the gnocchi. Both Jenkins and I agreed this was one of the best ones that we had that day (pictured below at the bottom of the plate).

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My next choice was a nettle veloute with a spot prawn relish from Diva at the Met.

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The veloute was very creamy and to me, almost had a light pesto-type flavour to it. The prawn was barely cooked, if even, and despite the rich creaminess of the veloute, had a great flavour to it. I noted to Jenkins that it would have been nice if we had some crusty bread to soak up the remaining veloute in our cups but I ended up just drinking the rest from my cup. :)

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Chef Robert Belcham from Fuel Restaurant recently won the 2009 Chef of the Year award from Vancouver Magazine so I knew I had to give his spot prawn boil a try. Luckily for me, he picked out one of the biggest prawns from the pile for me along with some peas and sausage pieces. The simple flavours of the boil really highlighted the natural sweetness of the spot prawns, which I was pretty sure were still alive and kicking less than 2 hours ago.

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My final choice was a spot prawn cocktail with a grapefruit and truffle salad from Elixir restaurant. The tangy grapefruit really contrasted with the sweet prawns but my favourite part was the tangy lemon granite which acted as a dressing for the salad. It was almost like a fancy lemon slushee and it made the salad really refreshing.

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Despite the long line-up, I was really glad I had an opportunity to do the prawn tasting. I felt like $10 was not too bad for the opportunity to have fresh spot prawns prepared in such different ways. There was also a wine tasting booth at the festival, which allowed us to try a variety of wines with our prawn selections.

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After our light “lunch”, we headed back to Granville Island where we checked out a cooking demonstration by Chef Fran├žois Gagnon. We were able to snag a table so we were able to sit as we watched him prepare spot prawns with tortellini in a prociutto and prawn broth.

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Best of all, at the end of the demonstration, we were able to try his dish out. I would have to say that next to our prawn sampling from Pear Tree/Bin 941, this was one of the best samplings we had all day and it was free! :) The tortellini was cooked just right and went really well with the prawn that was cooked only by having the broth poured over it. I couldn’t taste the prociutto too much but the prawn flavour was very strong and also had fresh garbanzo beans in it. I was really glad I was able to snag a sample of this before they ran out. :)

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There are 2 days left (May 10 and 16) for the prawn tastings and cooking demonstrations so I recommend you head down to False Creek if you have time! You can also buy fresh spot prawns by the wharf for $12/lb after 1PM for the next 8 weeks, which is when the boats usually return. Jenkins overheard one of the chefs explaining that they are best eaten 2 hours after they are brought in although it should still be ok up to 12 hours later. :)

Details:

Location: False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf and Granville Island

Prawn Tastings – $10/plate available May 10 and 16 from 12PM-3PM May 9 although they start to sell out of some choices by around 2PM. There are 10 choices in all but you are only allowed 5 picks.

Cooking Demonstrations – May 10 and 16 at 11AM, 1PM, and 3PM at Granville Island Public Market. Get there early if you want to grab a seat or a good view. Free samplings are available afterwards.

The Spot Prawn Festival is hosted by the BC Chefs’ Table Society.

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