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Apr 7, 2010 08:17 AM

Spot Prawns - time to get them?

I am thinking of cooking spot prawns this weekend. See them in many seaffod stalls around the Bay Area. However, the quality can vary from the firm to the soggy. I tend to poach it quickly ad make a light soy base dipping sauce. I get very excited when I see a pinkish liquid (or oil) when peeling. Almost wanted to save them and throw in risotto.

All in all, a very delicate ingredient.

Any suggestions on where to get the best spot prawns?
Am I too early in getting them? (We arein early April)
How do I spot the good ones from bad?

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  1. Try Ranch 99 where they have them live in season. Not sure if it they are in season yet. The net says next month.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wolfe

      The good ones are *still alive* when purchased. They start to go mushy almost immediately after being dispatched.

    2. Santa Barbara spot prawns seem to be out of season now, but you may still find some harvested as bycatch from the ridgeback shrimp.

      "Santa Barbara Spot Prawns: Santa Barbara Spot Prawns are considered the sweetest-tasting prawn on the West Coast, with a texture similar to lobster. A shrimp species (not a true prawn), they are larger than ridgeback shrimp and have distinctive spots on both sides of their head. They are hard to come by because they are hand-picked in traps. Their highly desirable status drives the price per pound to $20 to $30. Served in fine dining restaurants around the globe. Season: March to October, some incidental catch during ridgeback season.

      Ridgeback Shrimp: The ridgeback shrimp is actually a prawn—distinguished by the sharp spine on its back—and is a smaller, more readily available species than the spot prawn. Very sweet and tender in taste and texture, their overall fragility prevents them from being shipped fresh, so take advantage of your visit to enjoy this delicacy. Season: October to June."

      3 Replies
      1. re: SteveG

        They're in season now per your post: Season: March to October. Isn't April between March and October? In fact, if your dates are correct, we're in the overlap period of the ridgeback (October to June) and spot prawn (March to October) seasons.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I don't understand governmentese but it seems there is always a California season it's getting them live that's the problem.
          Current seasons, size limits, other restrictions
          Season closure: From Point Arguello to Cal-Ore border, early May to late July; from Point Arguello to Cal-Mex border, early November to late January

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Err, yes. Can I claim undercaffeination? I knew I was reading it wrong, because Passionfish in Monterrey has had them on the menu since March. The best and second best spot prawn preps I've had were both there, and they haunt me to the point where I have been checking their menu.

        2. Not sure if pp are still looking for them, I saw them Monday (8/16) at the Richmond Ranch 99 for $15.99/lb.

          1. I haven't looked recently but I've bought them for as low as $9.99 live at Lucky Seafood. Most of the time they look to be $14-16. I don't see them that often but I also guess they sell out fast to the rough old lady crowd in the mornings. I did have spot prawns at R&G Lounge in July and they were excellent. The best ones I've ever had were bought in Monterey from a dock market, grilled.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ML8000

              Which dock in Monterrey? Last time I was down there I tried to stop for some fresh seafood on the way home to cook later that day, but failed to find any good spots to buy it.

              1. re: SteveG

                I don't remember. It's been more then 10 years. It wasn't the wharf but close...found them totally by accident. I also got some in Salinas that were excellent at Frank's Fish Market but that was also a long time ago.

                1. re: ML8000

                  I saw some live ones in the window on Wing Hing on Clement yesterday but didn't notice the price. You want the same qualities in spot prawns that you want when picking a live crab: lively and a bright shell. I'd also check the Seafood Center on Clement for them. If you're willing to pay premium, Bryan's fish counter in Laurel Village with custom order them live for you.

                  Wing Hing Restaurant
                  2550 San Bruno Ave, San Francisco, CA 94134

                  Seafood Center
                  831 Clement St, San Francisco, CA

                2. re: SteveG

                  We got them last weekend at wharf #2 in Monterey. Not the touristy wharf, but the one with the fish/abalone vendors. The spot prawns were live, and fantastic.

              2. Monterey Fish has them right now. You may need to call and special order them though, as we got them through the wholesale side.
                They were big and delicious. Some had roe.
                Hard to peel these suckers though!

                9 Replies
                1. re: rabaja

                  Season them, grill them and eat everything, omit peeling.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    Yes, I know.
                    This was for a particular dish and I was following orders.

                    1. re: rabaja

                      I've never found freshly killed spots (or other fresh) prawns hard to peel -- interesting. Some varieties can be a bitch to peel if previously frozen, tho.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Grayelf, if you like fresh spot prawns, you might want to check in with La Ciccia when you are here later in the month. Hubby and I had a wonderful dinner there about a week ago (perhaps our best yet), and the Chef mentioned that they were having a shipment coming and were planned as a special the following weekend (that would have been the weekend that just passed). I was very tempted to drive right back for a Saturday night dinner...So, I imagine if they were a hit that they will be back on the menu before too long...).

                        La Ciccia
                        291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          We had these a couple weeks ago at La Ciccia. They were offered as an appetizer, or a main, which we got. I believe there were 5 or 6 to an order. These were prepared very simply, and were delicious!

                          La Ciccia
                          291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                        2. re: grayelf

                          Monterey Fish Market only sells fresh spot shrimp usually live.

                          1. re: wally

                            Yes, we just got some more on Wednesday from MM and they were alive and jumping around quite a bit. Delicious too.
                            Not sure how much longer MM will have them.

                            1. re: rabaja

                              MM=Monterey Market. MFM= Monterey Fish.