On my recent excursion to Japan, I came across some things that stuck with me. The grand scale of the Tsukiji market awed me, while the solitude and peacefulness of the temples and culture humbled me. The food, especially the beef and seafood, inspired me, so much so, that I wanted dearly to bring some items and ideas back with me, to implement them into our market.
One of the best things I ate while in Japan was raw shrimp. The sushi piece completely changed my mind about what shrimp could be. My American palate was accustomed to shrimp many ways, but even the character Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump left off raw preparation in his exhaustive account. I had to bring these flavors back with me, to share them with our market and our customers.
Though I was served live shrimp that were prepared in front of me in Japan, I don't think the majority of our at home chefs and dinner guests on this side of the Pacific are quite ready for the execution of the plate so to speak. So, I looked for the closest product I could find that would give everyone an opportunity to experience the exquisite flavor of great shrimp, without moving the needle on their gag reflexes. What I found was the New Caledonian Blue Prawn.
New Caledonian Shrimp are a rare blue shrimp that are native to Latin America, but grown by SOPAC off of the coast of New Caledonia. For those of you who are not familiar with the world of Oceania, the French island of New Caledonia is located between Australia and Tahiti. I understand that many of you will immediately turn your nose up to farmed shrimp, but these are not your typical farmed shrimp. New Caledonian Shrimp are grown without the use of antibiotics and pesticides in a preserved ocean environment. Production is very small, with a focus on sustainability and quality. The shrimp are not readily available in the U.S., and much of the production goes to Japan for the sashimi market. The French product has been awarded many accolades for its elevated flavor and quality.
We choose to offer New Caledonian Shrimp because their flavor is unparalleled. It is a frozen product, so it is easy to have on hand for our guests, and when eaten raw I feel as though it can transport one to that eye-opening, whimsical world that only great food can unlock. When enjoyed raw, they have a creamy mouthfeel without losing the integrity of their firm texture. It's a paradox of bite, I know, but somehow they are forgiving and substantial at the same time. The sweetness of their flavor is unlike any cooked shrimp, which is our reason for sourcing this product and insisting that you try it raw. These shrimp have a clean balance of sugar and brine and a simple twist of lime or sprinkle of salt can elevate them from a mere experience to cosmic event. We can't force you to step out of your shrimp comfort zone - that step you will have to take yourself. We can promise you though, if you do, an ethereal world awaits. One that will open the eyes of your palate, excite the emotions of your appetite, and change what you think of when you think of shrimp.