By Rebecca Gardon
Primarily sourced off San Diego and Santa Barbara, our local spot prawns are a treasured item available to us in limited quantities for only a few months out of every year.
Also known as sweet shrimp, live spot prawns are quite popular in sushi bars where they are referred to as “amaebi”. Boasting a lobster-like texture and silky finish, the ample tails are typically enjoyed raw or lightly steamed in sushi bars, while the heads are often deep fried and enjoyed whole. Spot prawns are also popular for use in Paella and seafood soups and stews.
Most people distinguish between shrimp and prawns simply on the basis of size. Prawns are typically larger than even the largest shrimp. These terms are often interchanged but in fact, the two crustaceans belong to different suborders. Prawns are classified as Dendobranchiata; shrimp, Pleocyemata.
We get a lot of questions about our prawns, especially from first timers. Below are the most common.
Why do you ship spot prawns live?
Live spot prawns are the freshest, best quality you can get! Adult prawns make daily migrations through the water column to feed at night from depths of up to 1,500 feet. Their deep cold water habitat requires careful handling in order to keep them alive in transit from the boat to our plant. Once at our location, they are maintained in cold water tanks until they are live shipped to their final destination.
Why are some my spot prawns not alive?
We do not guarantee spot prawns to be live upon receipt; however, they will be fresh and safe for raw consumption (amaebi) same day. Once spot prawns are no longer alive, they begin to lose their ideal texture. If you are not able to consume your spot prawns the same day you receive them, we recommend boiling or pan searing them for later use. Be sure to cool first before storing in the refrigerator.
One of my spot prawns has eggs. What do I do?
Lucky you! Some spot prawns may include an extra special treat - a bundle of roe on their bellies. This can be gently captured with a spoon to use as a garnish, or simply removed and discarded with the shells after cooking.
How do I prepare spot prawns?
There are a couple of ways to go about things, depending on whether you plan to eat your spot prawns raw or cooked. To enjoy them as sushi, check out our videos below. (Google is also a wealth of tips and tricks.) If eating raw spot prawns isn’t your speed, treat them as you would any other shrimp by boiling, grilling, pan searing or deep frying them. You can shell the prawns before before you cook them, or cook whole and then peel and eat them. If you do shell them first, don’t throw the heads away! Both the heads and shells can be used for making seafood stock later.
If we had to choose – whole prawns make the most impressive presentation. We think this recipe for Head-On Prawns with Chile, Garlic, and Parsley would be fantastic over rice, orzo or quinoa, or served with a baguette and side salad. Debi Mazar’s Tuscan-inspired Linguine with Santa Barbara Spot Prawns looks well worth a try, too.
VIDEO: How to Prepare Live Spot Prawns
VIDEO: How to Make Amaebi Sushi