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Hot, live and kickin’

September 21, 2009

One of the markets that Charles and I visited when I went back home two years ago was the old Chinatown market, bursting with people as well as food.

One of the markets that Charles and I visited when I went back home two years ago was the old Chinatown market, bursting with people as well as food.

As a child growing up in Bangkok, I remember going to the markets with my mother and seeing tanks teeming with live fish, eels, crabs, snails, clams, and tubs filled with live mudfish, frogs and other sea creatures, and being able to select your dinner live, and take it home so that it’s as fresh as possible when you cook it and the final dish reaches the dinner table.

I guess that experience stuck with me because every time I go trout fishing at Detroit Lake, I take my “fish cooler” and fill it up with the cold lake water so that I can keep my catch alive until I bring it home and am ready to clean them and cook them. This weekend, when I took my outdoor buddy Anne Thompson for her first trout-fishing experience at Detroit Lake, I indoctrinated her with my some-might-say-odd practice as I told her to back up her Toyota SUV to the boat ramp at Mongold Park and took the bucket out of the back of her SUV to fill it with clear, cold lake water. I didn’t end up with any fish that day, but was happy that Anne did catch two. Most of the morning the fish kept stealing her bait (this morning we were using salad shrimp) until she caught her first trout and she excitedly reeled it in. When we got home and I showed her how to cleaned her two trout, we were amazed to find that one of the fish’s stomachs was filled with several salad shrimp — she ended up catching her bait thief after all — and later she told me that she was especially satisfied when she ate that cornmeal-dusted and pan-fried bait thief for dinner with her husband.

The weekend didn’t end up too disappointing for me and my family, even though I came home troutless that day, because the day before, Charles and I went to Portland to explore a place that I found on the internet — Om Seafood, which specializes in live seafood. I really wanted to go to this place because I had read about Northwest spot prawns and wanted to try to cook them, and guess what one of the items that Om Seafood carried live was. Yup, spot prawns. When cooked, their flesh has a flavor and texture like lobster, sweet and fleshy. When we entered the store, we passed rows of tanks filled with live manila clams, periwinkle snails, geoducks, Dungeness crabs, black rock fish and finally I spied the tank of live spot prawns. Their pink translucent bodies filled two tanks and they were sorted, and priced, by size. They were floating almost motionless. We ended up splurging and buying eight large ones, which were slightly over a pound total, they were bagged and I tossed them over the ice in our cooler and we started our hour-long drive home.

Live Pacific Northwest spot prawns

Live Pacific Northwest spot prawns

When we got home and took the shrimp out, we were shocked to find that they were still alive, twitching in the plastic bag. We peeked inside the bag and could see their gills moving in their heads, recycling the salt-water that was trapped inside the gills in order to stay alive. I quickly got the coals started in preparation for what was in store for the spot prawns. One of my many memories of eating prawns in Thailand was having them grilled quickly and brought to the table still steaming. I remember their sweet aroma and the look of their fire-burnished shells and was eager to re-create that experience for dinner and share that with Charles. So here’s my take on grilled prawns, which Charles agreed really hit the spot.

Spot prawns coated with chopped cilantro, olive oil, garlic and salt.

Spot prawns coated with chopped cilantro, olive oil, garlic and salt.

Grilled Northwest Spot Prawns

Grilled Pacific Northwest Spot Prawns

Grilled Northwest Spot Prawns

  1. 8-10 spot prawns
  2. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  4. 1/2 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
  5. about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • Put the prawns in a large mixing bowl and add all ingredients and toss well to make sure the oil and spices are distributed over the prawns.
  • Grill prawns on the grill, cooking about 3-4 minutes per side until shells are burnished and flesh is pink. Take care not to over cook or the flesh will get tough and dry.
  • Serve immediately garnished with some chopped cilantro and enjoy!
  • P.S. be brave and go ahead and suck on the heads when you separate them from their bodies.  You will find it incredibly juicy and sweet.

— Victor

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. charlesprice permalink*
    September 21, 2009 10:46 pm

    Most of mine still had the bright coral roe clinging to their legs and that was an extra treat.

  2. Shop Boy permalink
    October 6, 2009 12:17 pm

    Love the kid’s shirt in the top photo — and this whole blog.

    • charlesprice permalink*
      October 6, 2009 2:44 pm

      Thanks for visiting Steve, you’re the first that’s commented on the shirt. The monk doesn’t look very happy either.

  3. vpanichkul permalink*
    October 6, 2009 4:12 pm

    I’ve been debating whether or not to blow this photo up really big and hang it in my armpit of an office…

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