Sustainability & Spot Prawns with Executive Chef Mathew Koyanagi - Part 1


Chef Mathew Koyanagi inspires me with his food. 


Whenever we get talking about food I feel the familiar flutter in my stomach, the passion rises in my voice and I completely geek out on ingredients. What I love about his approach to food is his dedication to local and sustainable foods.

Recently we got going on about what's coming up for the summer season, and there are some juicy things brewing over here. 

First food item we covered: spot prawns.

The Ocean Wise program is helpful for consumers choosing fish and seafood that are ocean friendly, such as spot prawns (see the Ocean Wise logo on the right). Overfishing, pollution and global warming are three huge factors that impact our oceans and the life in them, so for people looking to make conscious decisions about what they eat, it's important to get to know your fisher as much as you would get to know your farmer. 

I hadn't realized how well managed the spot prawn fishery is, and they're such a great way to support local and sustainable businesses that provide a nutritious product. 

In this two part series, Chef Koyanagi and I give you the background information on how the spot prawn fishery is managed here in BC, and also treat you to an incredible recipe collaboration you won't want to miss! 

First things first, spot prawns (and any seafood in general) isn't regulated by organic standards (because it comes from the sea). Rather, our fisheries are managed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Spot prawns are wild harvested, not farmed.

Spot prawns have a very limited season where they can be harvested, so if you want them fresh, you have to be committed to keeping an eye on your calendar for when it starts mid-May. The season lasts approximately 2 months, but varies depending on the reports back on the stock size. It's not unheard of for the spot prawn harvest to close early if the numbers aren't there.

Photo from the  Urban Cultivator

Photo from the Urban Cultivator

Fun fact: all wild B.C. spot prawns are hermaphroditic – born as males, the female sex organs on their tails become more pronounced at about two years of age with the final two years of their four-year lifespan spent as females.
— Organic Ocean,

This isn't a food item you can forage - harvesters must be licensed and have tight regulations on trap size and daily and weekly yields. You can, however, go find your local dock (such as Granville Island) to get your catch straight from the boat. 

Spot prawns are distinctive by their white spots found on the first and fifth abdominal sections, and are a highly coveted for their sweet, delicate flavour. In fact, more than 90% of the annual catch is exported. 

"The best way to enjoy them is steamed with a little lemon and sea salt," says Chef Koyanagi. "Spot prawns have a natural sweetness to them that most prawns and shrimp don't have. Even raw, they taste as though there is sugar in them. They're also incredibly tender, bordering on fragile. Be sure to suck the juices out of the heads! Briny, sweet, pure ocean flavour."


Mathew Koyanagi is the Executive Chef at Savoury City, a boutique Farm-to-table catering company in Vancouver.

Unanimous winner of the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival’s prestigious Vintner’s Brunch, Chef Mathew Koyanagi is well known for his adventurous palate, bold flavours and attention to detail.

After graduating from the renowned Dubrulle International Culinary School, Mathew further honed his fine dining skills in his home city of Vancouver, BC. However, it was during a stint at one of Canada’s exclusive fishing resorts where his creativity and the challenge of cooking in unique settings lead him to catering and he realized his true calling – boutique, custom catering.

Having cooked in such exotic locations as the Great Wall of China and the Emperor’s Summer Palace, Mathew’s clientele has included former U.S. Presidents, royalty, dignitaries and a variety of international celebrities. Mathew fully embraces the sustainable agriculture movement and is committed to creating distinctive culinary experiences by showcasing the best and freshest ingredients our region has to offer.


Kristin PriceComment