Finally, we can eat prawns without an ounce of guilt

13 February 2013 - 03:09 By Andrea Burgener

Andre Burgener has been immersed in all things food since she took over the making of the family's lunch box sandwiches aged eight (her mom could make a mean creme brulee and a staggering souffle, but could never butter the bread all the way to the edges.


I WAS ecstatic when I heard Anna Trapido - on her always brilliant 702 Friday food show - giving me the news that I can now eat prawns.

She was giving everyone the news, but for me it felt like a personal message of liberation.

I love prawns. Most of us do. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi even tells of a subversive prawn restaurant in Israel where everyone eats the forbidden critters on the sly.

But I restrict myself to maybe one or two mouthfuls a year because I feel so horrible about the tale behind their procurement. Prawns, generally, are not what you should be eating, and that goes for both wild and farmed.

The wild ones

Wild prawns are harvested with the use of enormous fine-gauge weighted nets which not only do massive damage to the ocean bed, but also incorporate huge by-catch. By-catch is a vague word. What it really means is turtles, seals, sharks and other seafood.

Pescetarians who eat prawns are unwittingly as carnivorous as meat-eaters. There are a few fisheries with Marine Stewardship accreditation, who boast more sustainable sourcing, but honestly, any wild-caught prawn is best avoided.

The tame ones

Most prawns on our market are farmed, and the story is not much better: standard practice prawn aquaculture is ecologically damaging on a truly grand scale, and destroys sensitive and eco-rich wetland areas along coasts.

Chemicals, antibiotics and waste matter pollute the area so quickly that the farms must be continually moved, leaving a dead coastline behind.

In Thailand, the vast majority of the mangrove swamps have been destroyed over the last decade. There are more sustainable options, but they're thin on the ground and details are scant.

The good ones

Finally, here's the good news Trapido was spreading.

La Marina Seafood in Gauteng now stocks magnificent, truly sustainably farmed prawns from Mozambique, available from its deli or warehouse in Modderfontein, and it will supply you with every detail of the process.

They are crack-crisp and firm, unlike the farmed mush we've become used to. La Marina is at 7 Platinum Drive, Modderfontein. 011-608-3277. As for eating? With prawns this good, don't dream of getting fancy. Braai or steam until just cooked through, then dip into homemade mayonnaise, garlic butter or a light sauce of grated ginger, soy, lemon juice and chilli.