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The Sweet, Sweet End of Spot Prawn Season: Maenam

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Maenam

1938 W 4th Ave, Vancouver
604-730-5579

Lunch: Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Dinner: Monday to Thursday: 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Dinner: Friday and Saturday: 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm

If you’ve been around Vancouver in the last few weeks, you may have caught wind (and hopefully a taste) of the much-anticipated Spot Prawn Season. I actually hadn’t heard of it before this year and I was curious about what all the hype was about.

Why spot prawns?

  • They’re succulent
  • They’re sweet
  • They’re huge!
  • And for these reasons, spot prawns are considered a delicacy throughout the world

In my hunger-driven research, I found out a few interesting facts on how the spot prawn season “spawned” in the city:

  • Prior to 2006, B.C. spot prawns were exported to Japan almost exclusively
  • Chef Robert Clark (then of C Restaurant) and fisherman Steve Johansen of Organic Ocean, teamed up to create an event and campaign that would “elevate the juicy beauties to a prized place on our local dinner tables” for the short six-to eight-week commercial spot prawn season
  • The event?  This year, the city celebrated the 6th Annual B.C. Spot Prawn Festival on May 11th at Fisherman’s Wharf by Granville Island –  highlights included fresh-off-the-boat prawns, food and wine tastings, and celebrity chef appearances
  • Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association – the Spot Prawn Festival’s title sponsor – represents one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world

My first taste of Spot Prawns at The Roof (see blog post here) was not a fair taste at all. The foodie in me craved for better, and I eagerly ate on in search of the sweet ocean delicacy done right. With high expectations, my latest visit to Maenam did not disappoint.

Maenam is no secret; the chic Asian 4th Avenue spot has earned acclamations from The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and won “Best Thai Restaurant” in Vancouver Magazine’s 2013 Restaurant Awards.  Executive chef Angus An, his wife, Kate, and their business partner, Ken Lum opened the gourmet Vancouver restaurant in 2009, becoming an highly-revered staple in Vancouver’s culinary scene.

I love the interior of the Maenam – it’s simple, neat, and very well laid out in a modest-sized space. The modern décor hints at West Coast and Asian inspirations, while the service is professional and personal, yet not overbearing; together, this gives the restaurant a relaxed and pleasant vibe. It didn’t take long before both my stomach and my server noted the Spot Prawn Tom Yum Soup.

Interior

It was divine.  The perfect combination of spice and lemongrass, not overpowering in any single element. The slight sweetness from the generous portion of spot prawns infused the broth, creating a distinct and sincere flavor. The spot prawn meat was truly succulent and gave the standard Thai starter a luxurious and hearty tone.

IMG_1698-sized

My taste for Pad Thai has been shaped by the largely contrasting types existing on the market. It’s guaranteed to be on any Thai Restaurant’s menu, not to mention the at-home packaged pastes and ketchup recipes. For the most part, they taste alright…until you taste Maenam. I looked at the vibrant dish before me and realized: this is how great Pad Thai is done. The noodles were “al dente” (can I say that about rice noodles?) and almost caramelized with the signature sweet and salty spices. With just a squeeze of lime and a fresh topping of beansprouts, each bite of noodles, peanuts, prawns and egg had a fresh crunch to compliment the warm flavours.

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Yup, they nailed the Pad Thai, redefining my perspective on the dish. But Maenam is no one-dish wonder, and I was ready to see why. Here. Just read the menu description of the Crispy Ling Cod, look at the picture and try not to drool:

served in a caramelized tamarind and palm sugar sauce, topped with 8 different fried herbs and spices

IMG_1697

So crispy! So cod! So good. The texture of the fish was my favourite part of the dish – sugared and crispy on the outside, but tender and juicy on the inside. The fried herbs and spices (Thai basil, onions, garlic) were papery and light, adding a great pop of flavor, texture and colour. Between the Pad Thai and the Ling Cod, I wished for more hands and more chopsticks to take it all in at once!

If you haven’t indulged in Spot Prawn Season yet, it’s not too late (but almost, so don’t wait!) Restaurants such as Maenam, Yew Restaurant, Campagnolo, Araxi, Tableau Bistro, and Wild Rice are just a few places of many in Vancouver where you can celebrate the season! Or if you’re feeling especially inspired to try your hand at the prawns, you can purchase fresh spot prawns for $12/lb at Granville Island.

Wishing you sweet and succulent adventures,

Joyce

Joyce Chua

About Joyce Chua

I’m fascinated by food and its impact on culture, especially in an increasingly globalized world. I love how Vancouver’s multicultural food scene opens doors to history, culture, and understanding. Here’s to a life of eating and learning!

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