The Northern Prawn Fishery produces nine commercial species of prawns including white banana (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis), red-legged banana (F. indicus), brown tiger (Penaeus esculentus), grooved tiger (P. semisulcatus), blue endeavour (Metapenaeus endeavouri), and red endeavour (M. ensis). Scampi, squid, scallops and bugs are also taken.
The fishery has two fishing seasons – the banana prawn season which runs from late March to mid June and the tiger prawn season which is in place from August to the end of November.
These are medium-sized prawns with a sweet, mild flavour. There are two varieties: regular banana prawns have red legs, and white banana prawns have cream and yellow legs. Banana prawns are available all year round. They’re at their best in mid-autumn.
Affordable, easy to cook and easy to buy, Banana prawns are plentiful – about 4500 tonnes of Bananas are caught each year in the Northern Prawn Fishery.
This is good news for prawn lovers because it means that Bananas are generally available year round – from both specialist seafood retailers and supermarkets.
Bananas are well suited to asian style cuisine, and generally perform better as part of a dish rather than served alone.
Chop banana prawns and use to make prawn cakes or terrine. Use in Asian dishes – the sweetness of their flesh goes well with spicy flavours.
You can’t miss the Tiger’s stripes and it’s a great prawn for display, which is why you will see it in top hotels and restaurants.
Tiger Prawns have a medium flavour which puts them between Kings and Bananas on the flavourometer.
They have distinctive grey, blue or black stripes that turn red when cooked. Wild caught, they’re at their best from late summer to mid-autumn.
Serve tiger prawns whole with mayonnaise or aioli to show off their dramatic colour. Add to soups – their firm flesh holds together well or cook them on the barbecue.
Tigers are well suited to garlic prawn dishes, and their flavour will be enhanced by marinating.
The two species that are commercially sold as Tiger prawns (brown tiger and grooved tiger) are very closely related.
It’s smaller and not as impressive in the looks department as a King Prawn or Tiger Prawn, but the Endeavour has a beautiful distinctive flavour.
In fact it was named Australia’s best tasting prawn by the people who should know – the people who catch them at prawn industry “taste off” in 2007.
Endeavours have a sweet flavour that stands up well in spicier dishes that can overpower other prawns. As they are generally smaller, Endeavours go well in brochette form as well as bite sized portions in finger food. They also are perfect for salads and seafood platters.
Now you may think that King prawns get their name because of their size, but that isn’t so. King Prawns are available in the same grades as other prawns – large and small.
The Red Spot King Prawn is a reef prawn – it likes to stay within 30 kilometres of coral reefs. Red Spot King prawn is a popular choice in Queensland seafood restaurants because it really quite attractive with a cute red spot on the tail section. Expect to pay a little less for Red Spot King Prawns than for Eastern King Prawns.
Suggested coatings include batters (regular or tempura) with a touch of saffron. Crumbs made from brioche make a good match with the sweetness of the prawns. Blend in saffron, turmeric, cumin or ground coriander for added flavour. If curried prawns are on the menu, use a light style of curry with coconut milk so as not to overpower the flavour of the prawn. Prawn cocktail is always popular and can be made more exotic by adding mango or fresh citrus fruits and light dressings or mayonnaise.
Appropriate sauces and accompaniments for king prawns include chilli, coriander, citrus, garlic, curry (light), ginger, tropical fruits, burnt butters, basil (pesto), mayonnaise and vinaigrettes.
What to look for.
Look for firm, intact lustrous shells. In the supermarket, prawns should present well with even colouring and no blackness around the heads or legs.
Have a good smell of your prawns – they should smell like the ocean. If they have a slight ammonia smell, they aren’t fresh enough.
Cheaper than sausages?
Value comes from the price per serve, not the price per kilogram. For example, Banana Prawns are available from supermarkets at $14-$20 per Kilo. A generous serve of prawns is about 5-6 medium prawns on their own, or 3-4 prawns as part of a dish. That works out on a price per serve basis much less expensive than steak, chicken breast, pork or turkey. The difference is that prawns are just so much healthier for you.