Chinese New Year Recipes - Different ways of cooking Prawns

Monday, February 04, 2013


Sigh. I think of prawns and I think of my late Mum. 

My mum, the late Auntie Ruby cooking
large river prawns and enjoying it
Pardon my indulgence, but she is my inspiration when it comes to cooking. And I keep re cooking the Har Lok recipe at our Reunion dinner every year because of these precious memories. 

You will want to have some seafood on your Reunion dining line-up.

Prawns will always be elegant to serve, beautiful when cooked with it's golden hue and compliment other dishes well, adding some umami flavors to your meal. 

Stir-Fried River Prawns or "Har Lok" is one of the regulars on our reunion dinner table. My brother will normally buy them from Ipoh.

This year, he will be coming on the 2nd day of CNY and we will miss having those prawns for our CNY Eve's dinner. I have decided to use large Angka Prawns instead.

When I cook large prawns, I will normally cook it in two stages.
1. Deep fry.
2. Then stir fry to coat it with the sauces.

It may seem harsh to cook prawns in high heat oil. The idea of deep frying in oil is to cook it quickly. A minute or two is all it takes to cook the prawns. Don't overcook it so that it is still moist and firm. If you cook it slowly,  the prawn meat will start frailing and the juices will ooze out.  The second stage is a quick stir in the wok to coat with the sauces.

I normally like to to cook large prawns the "Har Lok' style, i.e. ginger, dark soy beans, light soy bean sauce (tauchu) etc. Check the recipe here. Of course there are so many different types of sauces you can use. It is really up to you.

When preparing the prawns, slit the back of the prawns and open up the flesh, while leaving the shells on. This way it will butterfly beautifully and more of the sauce will cling to the prawns. As it is already half -peeled, it is also easier to eat. Remember to de-vein the prawn.

Alternatively, I cook the butter prawns method. The prawns are completely de-shelled (keep the shells for future stocks). Then deep fried before a quick coating. Apart from butter sauce, you can use wasabi, pumpkin etc. Basically anything that goes well with prawns.

Quick and high steaming is also a good way to cook these prawns. As mentioned above, slice the back of the prawns first. Use a lot of minced garlic and some ginger. This way of cooking is convenient and the prawns are cooked and eaten in its own juices.

Now for medium size prawns, you may be able to get away with one-stage frying. It all depends on the amount you are cooking, the strength of your fire, the quality of your wok etc. Experiment.

Making Butter Prawns, after the 1st stage of deep frying 
Fried Assam Prawns


If you can only get your hands on smaller prawns, try cooking it with some veg. I have a good sambal prawns Nonya-style recipe which you can try. Or try the fried assam prawns recipe. Both are very appetizing.

Prawns are relatively cheap here. During this CNY week, they will be expensive. Go for the imported frozen ones.

Har Lok
Fried medium-sized grey prawns in sweet plum sauce

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