Types of Australian Prawns
There are 4 main species of prawns, all with different flavour profiles and cooking performance.
There are also 5 lesser-known species – Coral Prawn, School Prawn, Bay Prawn, Royal Red and Scarlet Prawn.
It’s good to be the king.
King doesn’t refer to size, but species (kings can be small, medium or large) and they are found nearly all the way around the Australian coastline. The Eastern King is found from Queensland to Victoria and the Western King ranges from SA all the way around to The Kimberly in WA. The Red Spot King is found off the coast of Qld. Kings from certain areas are known by the local area such as Mooloolaba Kings, Hay Point Kings or Spencer Gulf Kings.
Kings have a lovely almost iridescent blue/purple colouration on the tail when raw and cooked, have rosy pink/orange bands.
They have a rich flavour and moist flesh which makes them a perfect “bucket of prawns” candidate served chilled with dipping sauces or they can be battered, crumbed or used for tempura dishes as well as in casseroles, laksas and paellas.
Species: Melicertus latisulcatus; Melicertus plebejus; Melicertus longistylus
Great looking, great cooking.
Wild Caught Tiger Prawns
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. There are two species of wild tiger prawns, one species of Farmed Tiger prawns and all of them are beautiful and delicious.
Tiger Prawns have a medium flavour which puts them between Endeavours (strong) and Bananas (mild) on the flavour spectrum. They are caught from all around Australia including the Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres Strait, North East Coast, Exmouth and Shark Bay.
They have distinctive grey, blue or black stripes that turn red when cooked. Tiger prawns are available all year round because they are wild caught and also raised in aquaculture. Wild caught, they’re harvested from late summer to mid-autumn.
Serve chilled cooked 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 wild-caught species that are commercially sold as Tiger prawns (brown tiger and grooved tiger) are very closely related.
Black Tiger Prawns (farmed) — year round
Brown Tiger Prawns (wild caught) — year round with peak supplies Feb-May
Grooved Tiger Prawns (Wild caught) — year round with peak supplies Feb-May
Farmed Tiger Prawns
Black tiger prawns are farmed predominantly from Queensland and Northern NSW. The farmed black tiger is a gorgeous prawn that looks appealing on any platter and tastes amazing. Some farms in the North have two seasons per year, and some only one — but the great thing about farmed tigers is the reliable, year round consistency and quality.
Through selective breeding programs spanning many generations (of prawns), scientists and farmers have created a fast growing, delicious prawn that is suited to the Australian palate.
Sweet, mild and versatile.
Wild caught banana prawns
Banana prawns are delicious and abundant with a sweet mild flavour. The largest Banana Prawn fishery, the Northern Prawn Fishery runs from Cape Londonderry in WA, all the way to the Torres Strait including the Gulf of Carpentaria, supplying ¼ to ⅓ of all Australian prawns sold.
Banana Prawns’ sweet, mild flavour makes them ideal for light and delicately flavoured dishes. They present well as they retain their shape when cooked, and are generally more affordable than kings or tigers.
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, though they’re at their best in mid-autumn. Most banana prawns are caught in an 8 week season through April to May.
For more information on wild-caught banana prawns see http://www.bananaprawns.com.au
Farmed Banana Prawns
Affordable, easy to cook and easy to buy, Banana Prawns are also sustainably farmed via aquaculture in Far North Queensland. This is good news for prawn lovers because it means that banana prawns are generally available year-round — from both specialist seafood retailers and supermarkets.
So tasty, so healthy, just a little bit ugly.
Endeavours aren’t the prettiest or most impressive looking of Australian prawns. But while beauty may only run shell deep, it’s the distinctive sweet flavour of the Endeavour that sets it apart — so much so, it was voted Australia’s best tasting by those who should know — a national panel of professional prawn fishers — in a hotly contested prawn taste off in Adelaide in 2007.
Endeavour Prawns are found in the warmer northern waters of Australia and are the best choice for dishes containing more fragrant or stronger flavours, like laksas, paellas or dipping sauces with extra kick as the Endeavour’s natural sweetness isn’t as easily overpowered by bolder spices.
There are two types of Endeavour Prawn – the red and the blue. Both are excellent eating.
Red Endeavour Prawn – Metapaneus ensis
Blue Endeavour Prawn – Metapenaeus endeavouri
Making the grade — how prawns are sized.
Prawns come in all different sizes, and they are graded by how many there are per pound. The lower the number, the bigger the prawn.
“U” means under — e.g U/8 (pronounced “you eight”) means 8 or less prawns of this size per pound or 16 prawns per kilo. Sometimes prawns are graded within a range e.g 21/30 (Pronounced twenty-one, thirty) means a pound will contain from 21 to 30 prawns (or 40-60 prawns per kilo) 21/30 prawns are medium size.
Commonly found prawn grades
U/6 = 12 prawns per kilo (Enormous. Also can be called Leader Prawns)
U/8 = 16 prawns per kilo (Huge)
U/10 = 20 prawns per kilo (XX-Large)
U/15 = 30 prawns per kilo (X-Large)
9/12 = 20 prawns per kilo ( X-Large)
10/20 = 30 prawns per kilo (Large)
21/30 = 50 prawns per kilo(Medium)
30+ = 70 prawns per kilo (Small)
S&B = Soft and Broken and come ungraded for size