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There are some foods that simply scream luxury: caviar, lobster, truffles… but for many, the sweetest of seafood delicacies is the langoustine (Nephrops norvegicus). First found off the coast of Norway, they are often mistaken as small lobsters. However, while part of the lobster family, langoustines are smaller with slender orange bodies and elongated, narrow pincers instead of wide claws. While larger sizes are enjoyed for their quantity, it’s the smaller specimens that are valued for their sweeter meat, with the tail meat considered the most prized. Their meat is rich, juicy, fleshy, and slightly sweet, frequently compared to lobster in flavour. Belthazar’s langoustines are caught off the coast of Mozambique, where they’re infused with complex and delicate flavours with abundant sweetness. When it comes to langoustines in Norway, bigger is not always better but their Indian Ocean cousins (Metanephrops mozambicus) maintain their delicateness and elegant mouthfeel no matter the size, with the benefit of added brininess.

While langoustines are often compared to prawns, prawns belong to the shrimp family and form part of the order Dendrobranchiata. The flesh of prawns has a slightly more gamey and firmer character than the flakier, sweeter and more delicate bite of langoustines. Prawns have been part of gastronomic culture for thousands of years. For ancient Greeks they were a symbol of power and in medieval Europe they were a delicious treat on fast days when meat, dairy and eggs were forbidden. Today, prawns are the most widely eaten seafood, with tiger king and giant prawns (Penaeus monodon) dominating our ever-growing appetite for these crustaceans. Our prawns are wild-caught directly from the waters of Mozambique, which are able to grow to incredible sizes due to the Indian Ocean’s nutrient dense waters, giving the meat a far richer flavour than farmed alternatives. Unlike langoustines, tiger prawns have a firmer, lobster-like texture and mildly sweet flavour infused with the essence of the sea.

Mozambican langoustines and prawns are not only known for their quality but also for the sustainable fishing practices of local fishermen in minimising their environmental footprint and preserving the delicate marine ecosystem for future generations. Mozambican shellfish are more than just a world-class seafood delicacy, they are a symbol of responsible stewardship and, like us, undoubtedly African.

Great restaurants are defined by how well they can showcase the elegance of sublime ingredients with a strong sense of place. Mathematicians will tell you that elegance is the beauty of simplicity. Yet, simplicity does not mean simple. Culinary elegance takes years of arduous refinement and experimentation. It does not happen on its own. This is the view of Belthazar owner, Ian Halfon, who adds that when it comes to their prawns “the starting point is finding the finest quality ingredient in the closest proximity and then respecting its integrity by being proactive in preserving the cold chain”, as shellfish are exceptionally sensitive to differences in temperature. Sudden temperature variation at any stage from sea to grill will have a profound effect on their natural texture and flavour.

Belthazar Head Chef, Sherwyn Rayners, explains that preparing and cooking langoustines and prawns is not a one-size-fits-all process. Mozambican langoustines are especially delicate and require attention by the fishmongers to not bruise the flesh, and for the grillers to baste at select moments with a consistently low grilling temperature on the flat-top until ultimately flash-grilling under the salamander. Preparing the perfect prawn depends on the size. Queen prawns (typically between 35 – 45g) can spoil quickly, so need much less time on the grill and more attention to regular basting. Moisture is critical. Kings (typically 60 – 80g) have an amazing flavour balance that takes constant movement between high and low heat as well as well-timed basting and finishing. Tiger giants (typically 120g and upwards) have lobster-like flesh but with less gaminess. However, they tend to cook quicker than lobster because their shell is thinner and so require much more attention to prevent overcooking. Check out our newsletter on lobsters to find out more.

At Belthazar, Mozambican langoustines and prawns are served ready to eat, but if you want to lift the flavour a little more, try the lemon butter, garlic butter and per-peri sauces.

Experience the luxuries of the Indian Ocean with Belthazar’s Mozambican langoustine and prawn selection: satisfyingly decadent when accompanied by a glass of fine South African rosé. Live a little this Valentine’s Day!

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