l-r. Neil Wyles (Hamilton St. Grill); Quang Dang (Exec chef Metropolitam Hotel); and Jennifer Peters (Raincity Grill), in 'Prawn Star' caps, ready lunch for 1100 plus, Tim Pawsey photo

Is it possible there’s anyone in Vancouver who still doesn’t know it’s Spot Prawn season? Probably not.

Even in the pouring rain, some 1100 or more of the faithful showed up last Saturday to the Fifth Annual Spot Prawn Festival for their first taste of the 2011 catch.

The Chefs Table Society prawn boil came with oyster mushrooms and a pretty decent heritage tomato salad to boot, as well as a chance to sample local wine from Neck of the Woods, good brew from R&B and superb Mogiana fair trade coffee. A very good deal at just $10.

Twelve bucks a pound is an ever better deal—that’s the going rate for spot prawns right off the boat at False Creek Public Fish Sales Dock. Look for the boats (Organic Ocean  and Mickey Finn) most days around 1 to 2 pm. Our advice? Get there in good time as they can sell out pretty fast.

Spot prawns and Tinhorn Creek Gris. Yes, same as last year's pic... because we like it!

Once you get them home, you really don’t need to do too much to them. whether you like to boil or pan fry them, a couple of minutes or three at the most is really all you need.

Now, about those heads… If you don’t like to suck the juices out, fair enough. (Although, have you ever even tried?) But instead of throwing them out, why not pop them in the freezer and plan to make a seafood bisque.

Robert Clark (Kambolis Group) and Lee Humphries (C) work salad detail, Tim Pawsey photo

Our favourite cooking method is to just quickly sautée in olive oil with some garlic. But if you want to get a little more fancy you can spice things up with Tina Fineza’s recipe that calls for shelled prawns with a splash of cooking wine and some sambal oelek. (Find it in Vancouver Cooks 2).

Either way, the key is to buy the freshest prawns possible. Lots of places sell them live. But if you have a chance to buy them right off the boat, literally as they come in, you can be sure they’ll be in your pan within hours of being out of the water. And they will taste fresher than live-tank kept prawns.

Blue Water’s Frank Pabst is one of spot prawns’ biggest fans.

He says to cook them whole, “Because you keep all the sweetness and juice that’s in the heads. Maybe enjoy them with a little dipping sauce of saffron aioli and a splash of lemon—and that’s it!”

The spot prawn is the perfect example of a truly sustainable, well managed fishery, as the species has about ten months of the year to recover.

We made a spot prawn vegetable, ginger and black bean stir fry last night and just boiled the prawns at the very end—for barely two minutes—before tossing them into the finished dish. Delicious!

See you at the dock!