Spot Prawns or Amaebi lobster like gems with a decadently and sweet finish. Because of the aforementioned sweetness, they’re also frequently called “sweet shrimp,” these babies have a short season and decadent flavor made for indulgent palates. They’re sustainable, as harvest is kept strictly regulated in short seasons throughout the U.S. West Coast.
Up until about 8 years ago, most of these little buggers were exported overseas, much like Spiny Lobsters. When awareness boosted about sweet shrimp, a market was created right here in the U.S.! This highly anticipated seasonal food is important for any chef that cooks shrimp, and especially sushi chefs.
Spot Prawns Vs Shrimp
While they might be called “prawns” these guys are technically shrimp. You might be surprised to find that the primary differentiator between a prawn and shrimp lies in their anatomy.
Shrimp have claws on only two of their legs, and the second segment of their shell will overlap the first and third shell segments, giving them their characteristic “shrimp” shape.
Prawns live in brackish (where salt and fresh water meet) water, and are usually bottom dwellers. They have claws on three of their legs, and their first shell segment overlaps the second, and the second segment overlaps the third.
Cooking Spot Prawns
The first thing to be aware of, is to never rinse your live spot prawns in tap water. The chlorine content in our water will immediately kill the prawns, and facilitate the degradation process. If you’re buying them live, immediately get them in a cooler or on ice.
Spot prawns are best cooked quickly until they turn a pleasing pink color. This usually means they cook within two minutes. Alternatively, they’re excellent served raw. If you have sweet shrimp that is incredibly fresh, they’re excellent for use in sushi and other crudo applications. Ask about LIVE varieties. When you’re ready, you can simply remove the heads and serve the bodies raw.
Never forget, however, that the heads are full of juicy treasure. Many a chef will serve the cooked heads along with the raw meat, so customers can enjoy the treat from head to tail.