Prepare yourselves, people. This 364th blog post might be as the long as the first 363 combined. Yesterday was a very busy day, and it was a day that involved prawn moustaches.
It began at 7am, when I stepped off the dock and onto Organic Ocean’s prawn boat. Frank and Steve are the fishermen who own this sustainable seafood company, and they very generously agreed to take me along for a morning of spot prawn fishing; the highly-anticipated season is nearing its end, and Chef Danilo Ibarro of the Blue Canoe also joined us. Waking up at 5:30am hurts, but it doesn’t hurt as much as 4am (when Steve and Frank get up), and it’s impossible to beat the fresh air, sunshine, and stillness of an early morning.
We headed out to their secret prawn-trapping location (I have no sense of direction, so I can’t reveal their haunts even if I wanted to), and then Chef and I watched as they set to work collecting and resetting the traps.
What makes Organic Ocean special? First of all, the spot prawns they catch in the morning are at restaurants across Metro Vancouver by 2pm the same day, still alive. That is FRESH.
Secondly, they fish only what’s in season, and their methods allow for all by-catch to be returned to the water unharmed. All kinds of little critters make it into the traps, including crabs, fish, and sometimes even starfish, but every single one is picked out and tossed back into the blue, still thrashing.
Frank fully managed to convince me that one red starfish was poisonous (I figured “ooooh, it must be a SPECIAL starfish”), and when he threw it at me, I let out the exact scream he had hoped for. Consider me initiated.
But enough about the by-catch – let’s talk about the the spot prawns, which are a West Coast specialty known across the world for their sweet flavour and firm texture.
They’re named for the white spots on their tail, and can grow to be serious beasts. As they came in, Steve and Frank stored them in containers in a temperature-controlled hatch filled with water pumped from the deep ocean; apparently the surface water is mixed with some fresh water run-off, and they like to ensure they’re stored in the same pure saltwater as where they live.
It was obviously amazing to watch this whole production, and then Chef Danilo blew my mind even further by preparing fresh prawn ceviche on the boat.
He’d brought his own bowl, pre-chopped vegetables, spices, herbs, lemon/lime juice, and clamato juice, and we shelled the still-squirming prawns and tossed them into the bowl. He mixed it all up, put some ice bags on top (he’d brought those, too), and let it sit for over an hour.
Then we feasted on the freshest, most delicious ceviche I’ve ever had. It was truly incredible, especially with this view (recipe at the bottom of the post!)
Then a bald eagle circled overhead, swooped down, and plucked a fish right out of the water (a rare sight). I nearly cried with happiness over what my mouth was chewing and my eyes were seeing.
I helped out by shelling some prawns and emptying one spot prawn trap – you’re welcome, guys!
Thank you so much to Steve and Frank for taking me out yesterday, and for fishing the way they do. They work so hard, have such respect for the ocean, and are two of the friendliest yellow-clad guys you could meet. And thanks to Chef for feeding us one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had.
After I got back to the dock, I changed outfits and headed off for an interview with Felicity Wang of Sing Tao Daily, hoping very much I didn’t smell like a fishing boat. We met at Excellent Tofu, which was an ideal place to be on such a hot, sunny day.
While we chatted, we ate cold tofu pudding with sweet black rice, coconut milk, and ginger syrup – a dish I am now crazy about.
After a great chat with Felicity, I went to eat the second half of my ‘lunch,’ which was cake pops! I was recently told about Binh’s Lollicakes, which is located in the same plaza as the Fraser Delicatessen, but on the second floor and with its entrance via the inner courtyard.
Binh describes her work as ‘edible art on a stick,’ which is the perfect way to put it. Her cake flavours are excellent (lemon and coconut were especially good), and she creates intricate, edible exteriors on the exteriors of the lollicakes. Check out her website to see more of them, but here are a few of my favourites from yesterday:
Her favourite lollicakes to make feature these tiny, tiny edible shoes (Louboutins, to be exact):
I ate four cake pops to compliment my dessert tofu (peanut butter chocolate, lemon, coconut, and red velvet), and washed them down with a lovely cup of tea. An excellent lunch.
Thanks to the lovely ladies of Binh’s for hosting me!
After getting my sugar fix, I drove over to see the folks at The Sharing Farm, and Gretchen and Sasha showed me what they’re busy planting and tending to in the fields.
As you know, I’m one of The Sharing Farm’s biggest fans, and yesterday was an ideal day to be chatting by the nearly-matured garlic scapes and admiring newly-planted tomatoes.
This year they’re producing their own honey, so you can pick up some Sharing Farm sweetness at their Garlic Festival!
By dinnertime, I was ready for something savoury, so I drove to Alexandra Road for my 364th meal. I was originally going to try Max Noodle House (they have some of the best wonton noodle in the city, apparently), but then I spotted Shanghai Morning Restaurant and couldn’t resist it.
I’ve come to love Shanghainese food SO much, and since I was nearly seeing double with hunger, I just could not pass up on one final xiao long bao meal before 365 ends. The woman who greeted me came out from behind the counter where she was making dumplings, and was so, so friendly. She was also amused that I ordered four dishes, but I assured her I was very hungry and could take the rest home to my roommates. I went with four of my absolute favourites: fried green beans with pork, xiao long bao, beef roll, and gluten.
It was a lot of food, but I did serious damage on it. The green beans were excellent – without a doubt, this has been one of my favourite dishes this year.
The beef roll was exactly the carby goodness I wanted, with tender beef and a drizzle of hoisin inside.
The cold cubes of gluten were soaked in a sweet sauce, with soft peanuts and a garnish of black fungus. Loved it.
Finally, the xiao long bao were a little thick on top, but the rest of the wrappers were very thin, and they were fat with broth. I’ve been thinking back to the first time I had them at Suhang – how unsure I was! How very unaware I’d grow to crave them! My whole meal only came to $27.
So there you have it, one very full, very amazing day. I’m genuinely shocked that we’re at the end, and as you can see, I’m trying to squeeze every last bit out of this experience. There are so many people I want to see, so many people I want to thank, and so many more lunches of pure sugar I want to eat.
Now I’m off to adventure through my 365th day – wish me luck. Also, please enjoy this incredible recipe from Chef Danilo!
Spot Prawn Ceviche
2 ½ lbs of spot prawns, peeled and devein
¼ cup diced red onions
¼ cup dice tomatoes
1 celery, diced
1 avocado, diced
½ bunch of cilantro coarsely chopped
2 lemon juiced
1 lime juiced
1 cup clamato juice
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl; let it chill in the fridge for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours. Serve with plantain chips, tortilla chips or soda crackers. Preferably on a boat.
Shanghai Morning Restaurant
Vegetarian options available