On National Prawn Day, don't forget to remove the poo chute

Celebrate National Prawn Day on March 19. Picture: Shutterstock
Celebrate National Prawn Day on March 19. Picture: Shutterstock

Is there any little crustacean that's more divisive than the prawn?

So it's fine to suck the brains out but it's sacrilegious to leave the poo chute in? Nothing divides Australians more than a prawn's digestive tract - do you remove the thin black vein or not?

And do you eat the prawn whole, shell and all, or do you spend hours peeling them? In many countries the shell is considered a delicacy.

And always a prawn, and never a shrimp. Please.

While we usually associate prawns with holiday feasts, March 19 is National Prawn Day, and we don't need too many excuses to indulge in our favourite seafood.

Initiated by Tropic Co., who farm prawns in Queensland and northern NSW, the day marks the start of the farmed tiger prawn season. The company will host events around the nation, including the Great Australian Prawn Peel Off where competitors will try and break the world record of 21 prawns in one minute.

Tropic Co. prawn peeling expert Nik Du Moulin - his record for one prawn is 4.3 seconds - says the secret to peeling a prawn is simple.

"My trick is to twist and remove the head, then pick the shell at the front of the prawn and pull it back, which removes the shell and legs together," she says.

The Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries also has some good advice to make this chore less laborious.

First remove the head. Grab the body of the prawn just below where the head joins the first part of the body. Twist the head off.

Then remove the main shell. Hold the body firm and use your thumb to grip the legs and shell around the body of the prawn removing one section at a time. Repeat until only one or two sections remain.

Pop the tail. Squeeze the tail section and the rest of the prawn should pop out. (Or leave the tail section in place for an impressive presentation.)

There are also a number of cool hacks doing the rounds. One involves removing the prawn head and then running a fork up its spine to remove the shell. Another involves removing the tail and then splitting the shell into segments. Check them out.

But what to do with all these heads and shells? Prawn heads make a great base for fish stock. Chooks absolutely love prawn heads but, if you don't have chooks, prawn shells and heads also make fantastic compost. If you need to dispose of them, double wrap in plastic bags, pushing as much air out as you can before tying off and sealing the bag. If it is a few nights until bin night, put them in the freezer rather than leaving them in the bin.

And if you needed another excuse to eat prawns, Tropic Co. ambassador and leading nutritionist Susie Burrell says prawns are a must-have superfood.

"Prawns are one of the most nutritionally filled proteins you can incorporate into your next meal or snack," she says.

"They are full of rich health benefits, low in fat, packed full of vitamins and minerals, while also being high in omega 3."

But do you need to remove the poo chute? The short answer is no. The only reason to remove it is for cosmetic reasons. Cooking the prawn kills whatever bacteria might be present. The only thing you might notice, and more noticeably in large prawns, is a little grittiness.

Here are some recipes to enjoy, at any time of the year.

Aussie tiger prawn nicoise salad. Picture: Supplied

Aussie tiger prawn nicoise salad. Picture: Supplied

Aussie tiger prawn nicoise salad

Ingredients

600g whole cooked tiger prawns, peeled, tails left on

500g chat potatoes, halved

1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

4 eggs, semi hard boiled, peeled and halved

200g green beans, blanched

3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives

extra virgin olive oil, to serve

lemon, to serve

salt and pepper, to taste

chopped dill and chives, to serve

Method

1. Start the potatoes in a pot of cold salted water bringing to a gentle boil over a medium-high heat, cooking until just tender. Drain and cool completely. Drizzle potatoes with a little olive oil and toss.

2. Arrange prawns, potatoes, lettuce, eggs, beans, olives on a large serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Season with salt and pepper and top with dill and chives. Serve right away.

Serves 4.

From Hayden Quinn

Tiger prawn, pineapple and lychee Thai red curry. Picture: Supplied

Tiger prawn, pineapple and lychee Thai red curry. Picture: Supplied

Tiger prawn, pineapple and lychee Thai red curry

Ingredients

1kg or 28 extra-large whole raw tiger prawns, (head and shell removed and deveined, tail on)

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

2 tbsp ginger, grated

4 kaffir lime leaves, torn

1 lemongrass stalk, slice finely, use the soft part only

2 tbsp palm sugar or raw sugar

400ml coconut cream

1 red capsicum, sliced

1 bunch Asian greens

1 medium-sized can pineapple, chunks, drained

1 medium-sized can lychee, drained

3 tbsp fish sauce

1/2 bunch coriander, leaves picked

Method

1. Heat three tablespoons of coconut cream in a wok or large fry pan, add the curry paste and fry gently for one to two minutes.

2. Add ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cook for another one minute before adding sugar and the rest of the coconut cream, fill empty can with water and add. Bring to a boil and simmer for four to six minutes.

3. Add capsicum, Asian greens, pineapple, lychees and prawns, when the prawns turn orange and are cooked season with fish sauce.

4. Serve with jasmine rice (cook as per packet instructions) and garnish with coriander.

Tip: Serve with a touch of lime.

Serves 4.

Creamy tiger prawn, pancetta and asparagus linguine. Picture: Supplied

Creamy tiger prawn, pancetta and asparagus linguine. Picture: Supplied

Creamy tiger prawn, pancetta and asparagus linguine

Ingredients

400g or 8 extra-large whole cooked tiger prawns, (head and shell removed, tail on)

400g dried linguine pasta

2 tbsp olive oil

4 rashers smoked pancetta, (or bacon), diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup dry white wine

100ml cream

60g baby spinach

1 bunch asparagus, sliced thinly

60g parmesan cheese, grated

pepper to taste

Method

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta following pack instructions.

2. Place a large frypan onto the stove top and heat to medium.

3. Add olive oil, pancetta and garlic, fry gently until fragrant without too much colour.

4. Add the wine and simmer for two to three minutes before adding the cream, simmer until reduced by half.

5. Add the pasta, spinach, asparagus and prawns to the sauce stir and heat through until the spinach is wilted.

6. Serve on a large platter, garnish with parmesan cheese and season with freshly ground pepper.

Serves 4.

Prawn po boy with hot sauce. Picture: Supplied

Prawn po boy with hot sauce. Picture: Supplied

Prawn po boy with hot sauce

Ingredients

500g whole raw tiger prawns (head and shell removed and deveined)

1 baguette

2 cucumber, sliced into ribbons

4 celery tops, leaves only

1 lettuce (butter or oak leaf)

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

a few drops of your favourite hot sauce mixed with 1/2 cup whole egg mayonnaise

Marinade:

1 tsp smoked paprika

3 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 tsp dried oregano,

1/2 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper

4 tbsp olive oil

Method

1. In a bowl combine paprika, garlic, oregano, thyme and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add prawns, stir and marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

2. Heat fry pan or grill pan on high heat, remove prawns from marinade and grill on both sides for one to two minutes or until cooked.

3. Cut baguette into four equal pieces and slice across lengthways without cutting all the way through.

4. Fold open the baguette, fill with cucumber ribbons, celery leaves, lettuce leaves and prawns, drizzle with spicy mayonnaise, top with dill sprigs.

Tip: For extra spice add fresh sliced chilli or jalapenos.

Variation: Add dill pickles or guacamole.

Serves 4.

This story Don't be shellfish: time to celebrate prawns first appeared on The Canberra Times.