It’s Spot Prawn season.
All the excitement on Spot Prawns had been going on for the past few years and each time the season comes around this time of the year, I had never quite bothered with what the deal is. Maybe it was because I was quite put off with all the publicity generated by the media and all.
But this year, I’ll try to learn a bit more.
Here is what little I learned over the last few days about Spot Prawns:
- The season starts in … early May and lasts for about 6-8 weeks
- Between the in season days, the best time is at the beginning of the season. This is when the prawns are the largest.
- Spot Prawns are the largest fished within the coastal waters around the North West Coast.
- It has a distinctive white spot in the last and first “segment”. So it is easy for everyone to know it is spot prawns
- Spot Prawns gets mushy very fast. So it is best to buy “swimming” ones and cook ASAP.
Suanne and I missed dinner because our boys were away in Surrey for their extra curricula activities. They take advantage during those times to say “No worries about dinner, mum. We can have burgers.”. So they had burgers and while mum and dad did not eat dinner while ferrying them to and from the event.
Suanne and I decided to instead to have a late night supper. “Da Lang” is what we call it. It is Chinese for late night supper. Actually, the word “Siu Yeh” is what we are accustomed to saying. Is there a technical difference between Da Lang and Siu Yeh?
Suanne keeps regular meat times while I only eat when I am hungry. So sometimes, I eat just two meals a day and in extreme cases, it’s just one meal and snacking in between. So Suanne was not too enthusiastic about this suggestion of mine to skip dinner and go instead to look for late night supper. When she is hungry you will know, her tummy will growl … and I mean GROWL!
And when her tummy rumbles (you can feel the vibrations if you put your hands on her tummy), she is not a happy person. More so, when I said I don’t know where to go except that I will drive around and find one. Oh gosh, I had an earful from her all the way but I need to find a place where we had never been to before. All for the sake of chowtimers. See what I had to endure for you guys? LOL! Am just kidding.
It was already 15 minutes to 10:00 PM when we came across a restaurant that still has lights on.
The Golden Harvest Seafood Restaurant sounds perfect — “seafood” means that they should have fresh prawns. What I was looking for is a bowl of congee and a good helping of spot prawns, prepared the Chinese way with soy sauce.
A quick check with the restaurant and was told that they close at 10:30 PM. That gives us 45 minutes which is good enough for us.
The restaurant was really busy. I think they were hosting some kind of celebration banquet that night because some of the tables had red colored table cloth. So it was nicely bustling that night.
This is a high-end restaurant serving seafood items like abalone, geoduck, sea cucumber and sharkfin. I know there is a movement going on these days to help Chinese restaurants wean itself from serving sharkfins. Personally, we will not order sharkfins and do find them overpriced. On the other hand, it is a traditional delicacy and culturally that tradition means a lot, especially to the older generation. I fully support the effort to educate people about the cruel way that sharkfins are harvested but I also think that care must be exercised to never talk down a long established tradition. People can be convinced about the ugly side of sharkfins.
Anyway, although we already were set in our mind of what we wanted, we find the Chef’s Recommendation page of the menu quite interesting. It is good to know that the first item on the page above is the prawns although specifically not spot prawns.
So we said what we wanted and both items (congee too) was off their dinner menu. They said that they can make it the way we wanted it. They pointed us to the tank of prawns they had. I asked them to give me their largest ones … and one pound of it.
I was pretty pleased. The prawns were big and they were jumping all over in the bin as they brought it to show us. We were told that it is very important to have spot prawns fresh. It must be the live and “swimming” kind. This is because the meat gets mushy very fast once they are dead. I read somewhere that it is because once dead, the head of the prawns releases some kind of enzyme which will get to every part of the prawns rendering it mushy.
Their spot prawns is $14.80 per pound, including cooking. For the above 1 pound, we had about 10 prawns. To me, they are satisfyingly big and so am gonna use 10 prawns per pound as a good benchmark for good sized prawns going forward.
Please note that the size of the prawns will get smaller as the season progresses. So the best time is to start eating now.
I tweeted with that question of how many prawns can one expect in a pound and got back quite a bit of answers. The power of Twitter!
We were asked “steamed or stir fry with soy sauce”. Not even a question worth answering. To us we love the crunchiness of the legs, antenna (or remnants of it) and head. Moreover we are having congee and so wanted bolder flavours.
The Supreme Soy Sauce Spot Prawn is what it is called. Delightful.
Because of our very specific order off the menu, our neighbouring table customers chimed in and told us this is the best way to enjoy spot prawns. They are elderly people, in their fifties, and seems like foodies who know how to enjoy their food. You know, there is a huge group of Chinese foodies in another world that we (being not literate in Chinese) did not get much chance to interact with. I bet I could learn a lot from these foodies.
Needless to say again, we were very very pleased with the size of it.
To me, the above is the money shots. The only way to truly enjoy is to set aside all decorum and use your fingers. Oh, they did not serve us a bowl of lemon water. Not a problem though as it was great licking the fingers of the jhup.
My focus is not just the body meat. To me the best part is the legs. Yeah, I eat them. It is crunchy and crisp.
The other great part is the head, or the brain as I learn from Mo. The antenna roots are also crunchy and one can chomp it off exposing the inside. This is where a bit of sucking comes into place. The shell of the head is kind of hard so sucking every drop of jhup from it is like a course by itself.
This is the only remnants of a prawn. All other parts are edible. One thing though, the shell and fins of the prawns are sharp in some parts and so you want to exercise care.
And the body, it goes with the congee. Super nice.
The congee was $16.80. We requested for fish congee as we wanted the lightest tasting congee possible to bring out the taste of the prawns.
The congee was not on their menu but I think they do have it in their morning dim sum menu. The congee is the creamy type and it also had quite a bit of dried scallops in it too — which was unexpected.
The service was good and we were rather pleased with the meal. I am sure a lot of places also makes great soy sauce spot prawns. You can’t really go wrong with this.
The place we enjoyed most of the spot prawns was in Koon Bo last year. Here is the link and look at the pix and you will know what I mean.
The above is their takeout menu if you want to check it out. Click on them to show it larger.
This Post Has 13 Comments
Good question Ben! I actually asked my mom the same thing about siu yeh and da lang. Turns out siu yeh is a general term for late night snacking whereas da lang is eating chiu chow food with congee.
Hi Renee: That sounds like a very plausible answer. Thanks! Ben
Oh yea….Spot Prawn Season is even more exciting for us than Alaskan King Crab season. We will be enjoying a few pounds of these over the next few weeks.
Sometimes a make a yummy “brain sauce” for dipping. 🙂
Did someone say brains…? 🙂 Looking forward to your sauce recipe, J! *hint hint*
Hi Joyluckclub: Yeah, not to mention a lot more cheaper and easier to cook too. Can’t wait to read what you come up with … especially the brain sauce part! Ben
Ah I just had some yesterday. The way I made it was to steam it and dip in soy sauce.
I didn’t know that it will get mushy after it dies, I thought I steamed too long lol.
Gah! You blew up another spot. Stop that. Sssshhhhhhh. 😉
They are elderly people, in their fifties.
I don’t think people in their fifties like to be called elderly.
Thanks Sue. I was going to replay the same thing. I am 51 and I am pretty sure I am not elderly…hahaha!! I am also Chinese so I really don’t look elderly.
Your post made me so hungry for good Chinese food. Not a lot of choice here is SW Washington.
I enjoyed this post, but it was the tweets from your “experiment” that really cracked me up. (^_^)
Hi Chubbypanda: Oh you followed the tweets too, huh? Yeah, it was a moment of panic for us. The prawns were all jumping and twitching inside the wrappers and when we pour them out to the container, it flipped all over the place. I knew the best way to get emergency advice on what to do next is by tweeting. Indeed, people came back to advice. Amazing! 🙂 Ben
Anyone got a recipe how the Chinese restaurants make Supreme Soy Sauce Spot Prawn? Is it deep-fried to make it crispy(as Ben asked on Twitter)?
Hi WS: And if I may add … caramelized too. I just love the crispy head and legs and how they are able to even make the shell edible. Ben