Often referred to as "tiny lobsters", our succulent prawns are a whole different rodeo than your garden variety, grocery store shrimp.
Minimum prep is required. Although they're vibrant pink, your prawns are raw, and require cooking (unless you want to eat them sushi-style, which is 100% safe!). Some prawns will have a small vein on top, but in our opinion - they do not require de-veining. The all-natural diet of a wild, cold water prawn results in a small and tasteless vein. They're shell on, and could be peeled before cooking.
They're sulfite + chemical free! To preserve their vibrant, pink hue, most prawns (and many other commercially produced foods, such as deli ham and wine contain a sulfite additive. For both our health, and the health of our consumers, we choose to not dip our prawns in sulfite (or any other chemical)! Consequently, after thawing, your prawn shells may begin to darken. This is a completely normal enzymatic process called "melanosis". It is not spoilage! It's natural, and the meat inside will remain a vibrant white. For more information on the adverse health effects of sulfites, click here.
After purchasing, you may notice your prawns have a thin layer of ice over them. This is known as "glaze". Glaze is 100% comprised of clean, fresh seawater. After the prawns are frozen solid on board our vessel, they're given a quick dunk in an icy bath of ocean water, creating an ice barrier over the entire surface of the prawn. The glaze serves as a protective layer, keeping moisture and flavor sealed in the shell. As your prawns thaw, you may notice an orange liquid accumulating in the bottom of the bag. This is just juice from the roe mixing with the glaze sloughing off. It is nothing to be concerned about.
They come in male and female (or, young and old). Prawns have a fascinating life cycle. Once fully grown at 18 months old, they function as males until they are 24 months old. From their 24th month through their 29th, they are transitioning - and by month 30 in their life cycle, they function as females. The reason this all matters is: females have roe, and males don't. We sell both. Both are delicious. In general: The older, roe toting females are much larger than the males. There will be fewer females per pound - perhaps 8 - 15. The younger, roe-less males are slightly smaller, generally about 15-25 per pound.
About our fishery
Method: Our prawns are caught using 100 - 140 small pots. Each pot is baited, and attached to a "ground line" that sits on the seafloor. Shrimp enter the pots through three small doors, and pots are turned through at least once per day. A "string" refers to one segment of ground line with pots, and strings average 5 - 10 pots each.
Management: The Southeast Alaska spot prawn fishery is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. All of Southeast Alaska is divvied up into small "management areas", which are frequently sampled throughout the duration of the fishery, and closed on an area-by-area basis. We call into our local shellfish biologist every day on the satellite phone to report harvest, as well as the ratio of males to females.
Sustainability: Since all pots are turned through on a daily basis, any unwanted catch (aka "by-catch") can be safely returned to the sea. Our most common by-catch includes pacific octopus (which we are allowed to retain and sell), as well as sea urchins, starfish, and sculpins - all of which are harmlessly returned to the ocean. Additionally, each of our pots are outfitted with a "rot line". Rot lines are a rapid-deteriorating section of string that's woven into the mesh of each pot. That means, if we happen to lose a string of pots at sea (which does happen...) the rot line will deteriorate, opening up the pot, ensuring it's not sitting on the seafloor capturing marine life for the next 100 years.
Region: Our permit allows us to fish nearly anywhere in the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. We generally fish somewhere around or south of Sitka.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I thaw my bag of prawns, and how long are they good in the fridge for?
Toss your sealed package in the fridge for 12 - 24 hours, and allow to thaw slowly. Best use within 24 hours of being thawed, but will be fine in the fridge for 72 hours. Note that after 24 hours, your prawns will start to undergo melanosis, which is a harmless darkening of the shel, caused by an enzymatic reaction. It is not spoilage, and the meat inside will still be vibrant and fresh..
Are my prawns already cooked, or are they raw?
All our prawns are sold frozen, and raw. They are sushi safe - and you're more than welcome to eat them raw - but we think they're best enjoyed cooked.
Should I cook them with the shell on, or shell off?
It depends on the meal. Our favorite way to enjoy prawns is still a quick boil with shells on, so they can be individually peeled, dunked into garlic butter, and enjoyed alone - like eating crab. But if we're enjoying them in a pasta, curry, or soup, it's a bit of a pain to stop mid-bite and peel them. In that case, we'd recommend peeling first.
How long does it take to cook them?
These prawns cook FAST. Whether boiled or sautéed, they will cook in about 2 minutes. Once cooked, the meat will turn white, and the body will curl in on itself. For boiling shell-on, the old adage goes: "when the shrimp float, they're done" - but we heartily disagree. A floating shrimp is a very overdone shrimp - they should be removed as soon as the meat whitens, and the shell turns vibrant pink. When in doubt, remove them from the heat. A slightly undercooked prawn will still be delicious, whereas an overcooked prawn will be chewy and tough.
What's the best way to cook them?
There is no wrong way! But here's some tips:
- Boiling: Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil, and add your thawed, shell on shrimp to the pot. Boil for about two minutes, or until the meat turns white and the body curls in on itself. Never boil with peeled shrimp (in our opinion, anyways) unless they're being added to a soup or similar.
- Grilling: Both shell on and shell off are great on the grill, but we're partial to shell on - it protects the meat better. Regardless, I usually marinate in a little fat, salt, and seasoning before grilling, and skewers are helpful for keeping them in line. Don't grill your veggies and shrimp on the same skewer - the shrimp will be far over done by the time the veggies are cooked. We usually grill on medium-high, for about 2 minutes per side.
- Saute: Can be completed shell on or off, but I generally take the shell off when sautéing. Sauté in fat of choice over medium-high heat, for about 90 seconds per side.
How do I peel the shells off?
There's two methods we use to peel our thawed shrimp: kitchen shears, or peeling by hand. Click here for more info on both.
What's the difference between male and female, and which is better?
Males are generally smaller, and do not have roe. They will be most similar to prawns you've purchased at the grocery store. Females are larger, and have roe on the belles. The roe comes off with the shell when peeling, so you don't have to do anything with it. But we're quite partial to roe, and it would be a crying shame to not use it to garnish your sushi, flavor your soup, or save to make a seafood stock later. Once peeled, males and females are indistinguishable.