Twist off the tail, loosen the shell at the top on both sides, then press the flesh out at the bottom of the tail. Johan, professional fisherman from Smögen, patiently explains how to eat the freshly cooked langoustines.
Together with another couple of professional fishermen from Smögen he offers small parties an opportunity to experience how langoustines are caught using traps. The catch is cooked on the boat, as soon as the shellfish have left the water. The delicious slightly salty and still warm langoustines are then enjoyed on board, with a light sea breeze in your hair.
Survival suites for everyone
Johan skilfully steers the boat out towards the open sea and we soon find ourselves a few nautical miles from Smögen. Everyone has been issued with survival suits on the boat, so whatever the weather, we will remain comfortable. On our feet we have our own wellingtons or sturdy boots. The waves are fairly big, as we are experiencing what is known as ‘old sea’, and the ocean is a pretty shade of lead grey.
How langoustines are caught on Smögen
We steer towards a yellow float, attached to a rope. It is soon caught on the boat hook. An electric winch is used to pull the rope towards the vessel. Along it are approximately 50 traps that will soon be brought on board. It doesn’t take long before they emerge from the sea, one by one. Those of us who want to help with the traps pull on thick blue rubber gloves and stand next to Johan to receive the catch. The traps are opened, the langoustines removed, new bait is applied and the doors closed. This procedure is repeated over and over. Some of the traps also contain small crabs that are thrown back into the water. A net inside the trap is meant to separate the species, but the smallest crabs still manage to get inside. Once all the pots have been emptied, Johan selects a new location and the traps are put back into the water.
Sea gulls and terns fly close to the boat, almost within reach. They screech loudly, hoping to get their beaks around some of the catch.
The catch is cooked on board
You get hungry at sea. We open the picnic basket provided by the hotel and containing coffee and sandwiches. In the meantime, the crew prepare the langoustines for boiling. On the Swedish west coast, langoustines are always cooked in seawater, and this is brought to the boil in a large pot on board. You need to add 300ml of salt to 20 litres of water to get the right taste. The langoustines are immersed for a few minutes, after which they are ready to eat.
A short stop at Hållö Lighthouse
Our next stop is the island of Hållö, where we are allowed to go ashore. It takes a few minutes to walk up to the lighthouse and the small chapel. The island is flat and we have an amazing view in all directions. The white houses on Smögen are visible in the far distance. Apart from a few small islands, we see open waters, barren grey granite rocks and the small number of buildings on the island. There are passenger boats to Hållö throughout the summer, and couples can get married in the lighthouse or the small chapel.
Daily fish auction online
The fish auction on Smögen starts early in the morning, in a building that has only recently opened its doors to visitors. We are told how the auction works and pretend to purchase some prawns. The way shellfish are sold has changed dramatically, from taking place only in auction rooms to mostly online. Today, customers come from all over Europe. Some of the catch is not even landed, but transported straight to the buyer to protect the environment. However, all loads are carefully checked and each fisherman must report the size of his catch. All shellfish must be marked based on numbers and quality before they can be sold. Sometimes the entire catch is sold before the fishing boat reaches Smögen harbour. The fish auction is held daily, sometimes it begins even before the fishing vessels return home. Irrespective of whether the catch is large or small, the prawns, langoustines and fish are usually sold within an hour and delivered to the stores within 24 hours.
- Smögen’s fish auction first opened in 1919
- The fish auction went online in 2004.
- The fishing methods are environmentally friendly and involve traps or trawling.
- All langoustines come from sustainable stocks
- The fishing was awarded MSC certification in April 2014
In early spring or autumn:
- Wellingtons, boots or sturdy shoes.
- Warm clothes, possibly thermal underwear.
- Gloves or mittens.
- Travel sickness medication if you suffer from seasickness.
How to eat langoustines
- Twist off the tail
- Loosen the shell at the top of the tail on both sides.
- Press from below, just inside the tail fin, to get the flesh out.
- Lift the carapace.
- Put one finger beneath the carapace and extract the creamy contents (‘the butter’).
- Twist the claws off close to the body.
- Carefully break off the tip of the claw.
- Carefully extract the flesh from the claw.