Snap prawn recipe

Spot prawns that are real jerks

This here is a combo post of two foodie things I was really excited about, and I wasn’t disappointed with either of them.

First. A great number of weeks ago, I bought some goat. I’ve made goat for this blog before, but this time I wanted to make my own spice mix for it, Jamaican-style. I Googled around and found a popular go-to cookbook and ordered it up from the library. I procrastinated doing up the goat (still in my freezer in the mystery meat section) but I loved the cookbook so much that I bought a used one for $6 including shipping on Amazon so that I could hang onto it. Look at this retro cover, people! You know with colours and fonts like that it must be good.The original printing was in 1990 and it’s been re-printed again and again. Helen Willinsky tells brilliant stories about cooking in Jamaica so that it’s part tourist guide, and the recipes are straightforward with simple ingredients. A great book.

Jamaican cookbook

And the second foodie thing I was excited about. Remember how I recently took a class about how to salt-bake fish? Well after that, I began to follow our local fishmonger, De la Mer, on Facebook, and they started sending alerts that B.C. spot prawns were about to arrive. Now that’s some FB advertising I can get into! I didn’t know what they were, but you know I had to have some.

Snap prawn recipe

Snap prawn recipe

Here is everything I know about B.C. spot prawns and why they’re different than regular shrimp. They’re only available for 60 days each year. They’re caught wild and have to be eaten fresh — so fresh that they’re one of the few shrimp that can be eaten raw and turned into ceviche. They’re one of the few sustainable forms of shrimp, because most shrimp we eat comes from Asia where wetlands are destroyed to farm them. Canada has only recently begun to hang onto these; we used to ship them all to Japan. They’re sweet, crunch, and you’re supposed to suck on the heads when you eat them. Don’t eat them old because they go mushy. And finally, they don’t come cheap. They’re about $3 per shrimp, so I only bought six.

So last night, we had a B.C. Jamaican night. Hey, if there are any Jamaicans reading this who live in B.C. I’ll give you some kind of prize! I took full advantage of Helen’s cookbook, making five whole recipes at once: Island Shrimp (which called for her Dry Jerk Seasoning and Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce), Fried Plantains, and Rice & Peas. Don’t think I’ve exhausted what this cookbook has to offer, though. There’s a whole cocktail section, plus many chicken recipes, stews, desserts… This book is going to get a lot of action in my kitchen.

Island B.C. spot prawns (check out that brilliant font. I’m kind of disappointed that there’s a new, more pro version of this book)

Helen Willinsky's Jerk

  • Spot prawns with the heads and shells left on
  • 1 bottle of beer (Red Stripe preferred, but I sacrificed one of my favs)

Mill Street Organic

  • 1/4C lime juice
  • 2 tsp dry jerk seasoning
  • 3/4C honey-ginger dipping sauce

Dry Jerk Seasoning

  • 1 Tbsp onion flakes (I didn’t have these, so I omitted them and it still worked)
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ground thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice (a critical Jamaican jerk ingredient)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp dried chives or green onions

Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Okay. So this one I did differently from Helen’s, because I bought the wrong kind of tamarind. She calls for sweetened tamarind nectar, while I bought tamarind paste, which was like an unsweetened concentrated molasses. Mine was still good! If you want hers, buy her book. 🙂

  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2C water
  • 1 thumb ginger root, grated
  • 1 Tbsp dry jerk seasoning
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp water

Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Directions for Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce: Mix tamarind paste, honey, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add ginger and jerk and boil another few minutes. Mix cornstarch and water in a separate little dish, pour in, and stir until thickened (should be almost immediate). Done!

Directions for B.C. Island Prawns: Mix up your dry jerk spices, and make your dipping sauce. Mix the ingredients above together and give your shrimp a marinade bath for 5 minutes.

Prawn marinade

Spot prawns shouldn’t be cooked for long, only about 30 seconds until they just turn pink, so this may be the fastest recipe you’ve ever done. Heat some oil and cook shrimp in a pan quickly, flipping once, or do the same in a greased grill basket on the BBQ.

Fried prawns

Serve with the dipping sauce which can be hot (I chose this way) or cold.

Fried Plantains: Buy Helen’s book (and I didn’t get one free or any payment for saying this, I’m just telling you to do this because it’s good!)

Ripe plantains


Fried plantain recipe

Rice & Peas

  • 1 1/2C canned red kidney beans
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3C water
  • salt
  • 2 strips bacon, chopped
  • 2C coconut milk
  • Fresh pepper
  • 2C uncooked white rice

Directions: Combine kidney beans, garlic, water, salt, coconut milk, and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the rice and bacon and stir, and bring to boil again. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the liquids have been absorbed. Helen had a few more ingredients here and used dried beans, but I went with what I had and what I thought my kids would eat.

Jamaican rice and peas recipe

Results: Amazing!

Spot prawns

Definitely suck the heads out of those shrimp for a tasty treat (poor vegans who follow me, if there ever were any). Helen’s jerk seasoning gives just the right amount of flavourful spice, and there’s lots left over for future recipes. The rotten old plantains give a delicious char of sweetness, and the rice & peas with coconut milk and bacon add a richness over regular rice that I wouldn’t have expected. Very cool to bring the B.C. ocean and Jamaican Island to our landlocked ol’ Toronto for a night.

And now, for something completely unrelated, my daughter wanted me to post this pic and ask you if you like her lipstick (which she’s only allowed to wear out of sight on this holiday weekend).





  1. Leave a Reply

    May 16, 2015

    Love the lipstick Charly! You have great taste.

  2. Leave a Reply

    May 16, 2015

    Now that was a good lesson in spot prawns that left me salivating! Awesome meal! Seeking a reservation for your next foray in Jamaican cuisine. That book is begging to be fully tested. I’ll bring the Irish Moss for an Irish-Jamaican night!

  3. Leave a Reply

    May 17, 2015

    That is such interesting info on the prawns! After learning some scary things about shrimp, I haven’t been as interested in them. I can get behind sustainable fresh shrimp, though! 🙂

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      May 20, 2015

      I showed a mom hoodies I had just bought from Joe Fresh (discount clothing that’s pretty nice) and she said, “Oh, those are great, too bad they make those clothes where they had the garment factory fire in Bangladesh.” How do I miss these bits of news? It’s really hard to know where everything comes from and to stay on top of it. Some days it makes me want to go local, others it makes me go loco and I feel like throwing in the towel.

  4. Leave a Reply

    Trevor aka The Burger Nerd
    May 19, 2015

    Leave it to BC and their expensive ways to sell a shrimp that costs $3 a piece. No Red Stripe mon! (said in my best drunk Rob Ford doing a Jamaican accent) Just the fun factor of stubbies should have persuaded you to set aside the Mill St. for a night. Well I’ve called the Jamaican embassy and they’re willing to overlook the Red Stripe thingy because your dish turned out so darn deliciously looking 🙂 As always, wonderful job whipping up something delectably “dangerous”.

    Btw I’m with Aly, thank you for the lowdown on shrimp. I honestly thought a good portion of our shrimp still came from the gulf states in the U.S.

    Thanks for the always interesting and hunger causing article 🙂

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      May 20, 2015

      Thanks! Sharing a Red Stripe with Rob Ford might even be worth a selfie, even though I disagree with him in gigantically enormous ways. I think I repressed my desire for Red Stripe because I was just at the liquor store and bought a whole bunch of weird beers. I got one with bourbon, one pale ale with skeletons on it, some Fin du Monde… Can’t wait.

      And on a related, but unrelated note: Why doesn’t the beer store have a drive-thru? It really annoys me to drag my kids in there. Always feel like mother of the year. A drive-thru would be so nice and incognito. And lazy.

      • Leave a Reply

        Trevor aka The Burger Nerd
        May 21, 2015

        Fin du Monde is the cat’s meow….love it! Maudite is really good too. I totally support your campaign for our next mayor if you can get a drive thru liquor & beer store. I’ve yet to take my little munchin behind the walls of our cherished booze compounds, but when that day comes I’m not looking forward to the piercing, drawn out, judgmental glares I will garner. If anything parents should get deep, caring, sympathetic looks with an understanding of why we’re stocking up on booze 🙂

        • Leave a Reply

          Ann Allchin
          May 21, 2015

          Oh, I even go one step beyond that. When I take my kids to the liquor store I give them scavenger hunts to find the bottles of wine I want. They end up yelling at each other, “You gave him a head start!!!…No fair, I can’t read…” I win mother of the year for sure.

          • Trevor aka The Burger Nerd
            May 30, 2015

            LOL….that’s some old school parenting right there! No doubt at least one of them will grow up to be a world class sommelier. It reminds me of my childhood. My dad would give me old packs of his cigarettes so I could go to the store and buy him some without getting the wrong brand…my reward was I could also return the pop bottles for candy money.

  5. Leave a Reply

    June 4, 2015

    LOVE the retro cookbook and the prawns came out looking amazing. Even though I’m a pretty adventurous eater, I can’t seem to get into the whole “the tastiest part is the head guts” thing with prawns. LOL

    p.s. Your daughter’s lipstick is FANTASTIC. 🙂

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 4, 2015

      Thanks! She’ll be so happy about your lipstick compliment that she might just suck on a prawn (not)

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