This year, the Spot Prawn Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary.
The festival has come a long way from its humble beginnings when Executive Chef Rob Clark of the former C Restaurant, fisherman Steve Johansen of Organic Ocean and the Chef’s Table Society of British Columbia threw the first spot prawn boil at Fisherman’s Wharf. In the past, virtually all spot prawns were exported to Asia, and only low-quality ones were sold to the Vancouver market. And so, this prized seafood remained undiscovered by Vancouverites. Now, the festival proves that an enthusiastic market exists for this local delicacy.
Spot prawns might be pricier than other shrimp on the market but they’re free of common and serious issues such as — human rights abuses, illegal antibiotic usage, and bycatch of threatened species. The very nature of B.C.’s spot prawn fishery ensures responsible consumption given its sustainability and short season.
This year, the festival consisted of a gala, cooking classes, and the annual boil. Here is a rundown of the festivities.
Spot Prawn Festival Gala
The gala was a six-course affair preceded by a champagne reception at the Vancouver Club. The dinner menu was prepared by a collaboration of celebrity chefs including Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise® partners Chris Whittaker of Forage, Matthias Fong of River Café, Anthony Walsh of Oliver Bonacini, Ned Bell of YEW seafood + bar, Angus An of Maenam, and Christine Beard of Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Every course was beautifully executed, and the ballroom buzzed with murmurs of appreciation after every dish.
The next day consisted of a series of spot prawn cooking classes at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Chef Darren Clay and Chef Rob Clark guided students into making poached and pan-seared spot prawns. The bowls of live, jumping spot prawns were daunting to some students who would let out occasional shrieks while handling them in the kitchen. But, the end every student successfully completed the dishes. We even tried the spot prawns raw. As we enjoyed our mango salsa tacos filled with the poached spot prawns, I heard students comment that the class had taught them how easy it was to prepare the seafood, and that they’d be buying their own spot prawns soon. Success!
Spot Prawn Boil
Ocean Wise hosted a kids-friendly booth complete with a fishing game, face painters, and the Vancouver Aquarium’s beloved mascot Bee-Bop. The festival drew thousands of people with delicious spot prawn lunch plates and cooking demos by chefs such as Chef Quang Dang of West Restaurant and Chef John McManus of Vancouver Fish Company.
The 10th celebration of the Spot Prawn Festival showcased this local delicacy in all its culinary forms— gourmet at the gala, home-cooking style at the cooking classes, and simple, pure flavours at the boil. The spot prawn season runs for six to eight weeks. How will you celebrate spot prawns?
Blog post written by Claire Li, Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Account Representative