Food & Drink

Celebrating the Spot Prawn

The season is short. Don’t miss out.

By Naomi Tomky June 17, 2024

Close-up of hands holding a large, bright orange Spot Prawn with an outdoor backdrop featuring a rocky shoreline and forested area, celebrating the ocean's bounty.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

In Vancouver B.C., spot prawn season is celebrated the way Copper River Salmon is here: splashy opening events, special menus, and the buzz of excitement as a limited-time local delicacy returns again, a harbinger of delicious summer meals.

Perhaps because it is overshadowed by the aforementioned salmon or because of the smaller fishery, we don’t fete it in quite the same fashion south of the border. But on flavor alone, we should. Spot prawns are unique to the chilly waters of the northern Pacific, and we should celebrate the big, sweet shellfish for the pure taste of the Pacific Northwest that they are.

The commercial season for Puget Sound shrimp is short, from the beginning of May until July 30, or earlier if quotas are filled. Even shorter is the window in which to eat the shrimp at their best. Without the head, they keep and freeze fine, but for the full, head-on spot prawn experience, they need to be cooked almost immediately.

The delicate, subtle flavor of the body, the complex savoriness the shell infuses into broths, and the firm meat make spot shrimp an unbelievable delicacy, though also a relatively unknown one.

Confident seafood cooks can find in-season local spot prawns at most fish markets and grocery stores with strong seafood departments, including usually Town & Country Markets, Uwajimaya, and Lam’s Seafood. They are commonly served as nigiri, with the head fried on the side, at sushi restaurants this time of year, and on the menu at restaurants, such as Surrell, which serves them with local king salmon, lardo, and fermented carrots, and Off Alley, where they are grilled to order and served with cherry tomato sherry butter. 

Enjoy sweet, buttery, and sustainably sourced spot prawns at Surrell in Madison Valley.

Photo courtesy of Surrell

But the short season and rarity means these menu items are always changing, and you have to catch them when you can!

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