PRAWNS would rate as the favourite food for many Australians. If they don’t appear on the Christmas table, it’s a fair bet they will feature in the holiday weeks that follow. We each eat about 2.5kg every year, but more than half are imported. This Christmas, for the first time, it will be easy to choose home-grown.
New laws mean all seafood has to indicate its country of origin.
‘‘We have noticed improved sales since the law came in,’’ says executive officer of the Australian Prawn Farmers’ Association, Scott Walter.
‘‘I think a lot of consumers are now able to make a decision.’’
Together, Australians eat about 50,000 tonnes of prawns annually.
Of these, 30,000 tonnes are imported, 15,000 tonnes are wildcaught in Australian waters and 5000 tonnes are farmed. Almost all imported prawns have been frozen. Most come from Vietnam, China, Thailand and Indonesia.
Prawns are crustaceans and all Australian varieties belong to one decapod family, known as penaeidae. About 16 of the 70 prawn species found around Australia are sold on the floor at the Sydney Fish Market.
Most local prawns are caught by trawlers in tropical waters.
There is a difference between shrimps and prawns (shrimps are from the caridean family). However, what Americans call shrimps, we call prawns. We do produce shrimps but none is edible.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Prawn farming was established in the late 1980s. Today, there are about 30 farms, mostly based in North Queensland. They focus on two varieties — tiger prawns and banana prawns.
We used to grow kuruma for live export to Japan but that market has largely disappeared and almost none is now grown. Tiger and banana prawns each grow naturally in Australian waters. In farming, the breeding population for tiger prawns are caught off Innisfail.
‘‘They are better than other species as they grow quickly and are less affected by disease,’’ says Walter. ‘‘The industry was growing quickly until about two or three years ago when there was a large increase in imports. Since then, it’s slowed a bit but we are still expecting significant growth.’’
Green prawns are raw. They are perfect for cooking on the barbecue or boiling in salty water. In both cases, they are cooked when they turn pink. Sweet tasting and lightly coloured, Crystal Bay prawns are a commercial brand which come from the Hinchinbrook region of Queensland. It’s the only Australian farm able to supply fresh chilled, cooked and uncooked prawns every week of the year. Farmed tiger prawns are mostly sold fresh cooked and have a deep orange colour. Wild tiger prawns are lighter in colour and tend to have a higher price.
DE-VEIN OR NOT
The prawn’s intestinal tract runs along its back and the recommendation is to remove (or de- vein) it. Once shelled, a really simple way to do this is to take a bamboo skewer, slip the tip beneath the vein in the centre of the prawn’s body, then lift out the vein.
CHILLI PRAWN SALAD
1 tbs fish sauce 1 tbs palm sugar 3 tbs lime juice 1 tbs lemongrass, finely chopped 2 eschalots, finely sliced 3 small red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped 700g large cooked king or tiger prawns 1 red capsicum, seeded 2 small cucumbers, seeded and finely sliced ¼ cup mint leaves 1 cup watercress sprigs 2 tbs roasted, unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
HOW TO DO IT
Mix the fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, lemongrass, eschalots and chillies in a large bowl. Allow to stand. Peel and de-vein the prawns, leaving the tail section intact. Add the prawns to the dressing. Cut the capsicum into chunks and add to the dressing with cucumber, mint, watercress and two-thirds of the peanuts. Toss the salad. Arrange on serving plates or platter and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts. Serves six as a starter.
Recipe by Fishline, Sydney Fish Market
Chilli Prawn Salad