How to cook prawns
If you’re indecisive on your choice of prawns or what type of prawns are suitable for a particular dish, we have 8 amazing recipes to recommend and how it can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways!
1. How to tell if a prawn is fresh?
Cooking with fresh prawns and not-so-fresh prawns can make a world of difference in terms of taste and texture. Generally, when buying fresh prawns, you need to look for its tell tale signs of freshness. Make sure the shells are not soft and slimy, or have a distinct smell of ammonia.
That said, if you’re unsure, frozen prawns are a good substitute. You might have heard that frozen prawns are of inferior quality — which is a complete myth! Thanks to the advanced technology, frozen seafood is handled professionally and hygienically to avoid cross contamination, locking in all the freshness, texture and nutrients to retain their freshness after thawing.
To bring out the freshness of your prawns, it is best to steam them whole to retain its natural flavour. For example, in this Steam Prawns with Shaoxing Wine and Egg White recipe, we use fresh Tiger Prawns with natural sweetness and a firm texture.
This light and healthy dish is easily prepared with your pantry ingredients. Before steaming, simply coat the prawns with shaoxing wine, sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper. After it’s steamed, garnish with shredded ginger and minced garlic for an aromatic finish.
Preparation: 15 mins. Serves 2 pax
2. What are the common types of prawns?
Dining out, you may have noticed that the size, taste and texture of prawns differ from place to place. That’s because there are many different species and types of prawns used in cooking.
For example, some of the popular choices and species of prawns found in Singapore are Tiger Prawn, Red Leg Prawns, White Prawn or Glass Prawn and Giant River Prawn. They are easily accessible at our supermarkets and wet markets and commonly used in home cooking.
Drunken Herbal Prawns, for instance, is a classic dish using TIger Prawns or Giant River Prawns.
To show the freshness of the catch, live prawns are usually displayed to customers before alcohol is added to them — hence the dish name “drunken”.
That said, to recreate this dish often served in restaurants, you don’t have to buy prawns fresh off the boat! As long as they are fresh and juicy, they are perfect for this recipe. We marinate the Tiger Prawns or Giant River Prawns with a generous amount of Shaoxing wine to obtain a rich flavour.
Preparation: 30 mins Serves: 2
3. How to defrost frozen prawns?
With frozen prawns, the defrosting process is one important step before cooking. In fact, if you skip the thawing stage, the prawns become exceptionally prone to overcooking. A quick and simple method of thawing prawns is to soak them in cold water for half an hour. Alternatively, you can leave them out to defrost in the fridge overnight.
By defrosting the prawns prior to cooking, quick and easy dishes like Zi Char Cereal Prawns can be easily put together within 15 minutes.
In this recipe, the prawns are deep fried with shells on to obtain a crunchy and crispy layer. With a sweeter flavour and softer shells, Glass Prawns may be more suitable for deep frying dishes compared to Tiger Prawns.
The prominent part of this dish is the cereal mixture stir fried with butter, curry leaves and chilli padi for a hint of spiciness. Toss the prawns in the buttery toasted cereal mixture and tuck in!
This buttery and aromatic Zi Char Cereal Prawns is absolutely tasty, addictive and easy to recreate at home.
Preparation: 15 mins. Serves 4
4. Can I refreeze thawed frozen prawns?
Well, the short answer is yes, but keep it to one refreeze only. Each time the prawn is thawed, it becomes more vulnerable to bacteria growth which may make it unsafe to eat.
Defrosted too many prawns? Avoid freezing over again with simple one-pot recipes that maxmis leftover ingredients. This Claypot Prawn Glass Noodles recipe, for instance, is a noodle dish with an amazing prawn broth.
This one-pot dish consisting of glass noodles (tang hoon) and prawns is easy to prepare. The fragrant mix of herbs like coriander roots, white peppercorn and garlic are roughly pounded to extract its flavour. Coriander roots are also packed with flavour, so remember not to discard them if you’re planning to make this dish!
You can use any prawns of your choice for this dish, but we would recommend Tiger Prawns or Giant River Prawns as they have a firmer texture and shells that are full of creamy roe goodness. After absorbing the sweetness of your leftover prawns, the braised noodle dish is ready to be served to the table.
Preparation: 45 mins. Serves 4
5. What types of frozen prawns can I buy?
While there are many choices to consider when buying prawns, frozen prawns carries a wider range of options and convenience as you can buy them peeled or unpeeled, deveined, peeled with tail-on, different sizes or even cooked.
For example, an indulgence packed with flavour is the Salted Egg Yolk Prawns dish. Since the prawns are fried in batter, using frozen prawns of your choice are perferred as you can buy them conveniently already peeled and deveined!
After frying them to achieve a nice golden brown and crispy prawns, generously smothered in the heavenly decadent and rich salted egg yolk sauce. A touch of heat with the chilli padi and a handful of the fragrant curry leaves, completes this aromatic dish. All I can say is, this dish is divine and will certainly whet your appetite!
Preparation: 30 mins. Serves 4
6. What can I do with the prawn head and shells?
Do you know that all the richness and goodness of flavour are in the prawn’s head and shells? It would be a waste to discard them, so why not use these parts in new recipes?
The Prawn and Pork Ribs Noodle Soup is one such dish that utilises almost the entire fresh or frozen prawn, from the meat to the head and shells.
The star of this dish is definitely a good and flavourful broth made with prawn “scraps”. One tip is to always freeze any discarded shells in a ziplock bag as it comes in handy when you want to boil it to make a good stock.
Tiger Prawns or Giant River Prawns are highly recommended to make a flavourful stock due to the rich amount of roe in the head and shell. To bring out the fragrance, simply fry the discarded shells for a “prawny” flavour. A variety of spices, seasoning and pork ribs pieces are added while the broth simmers for a good few hours to extract the best flavour.
Preparation: 2 hrs 15 mins Serves: 4
7. How do I clean and devein prawns?
To devein prawns, simply use a sharp knife to make a slash at the back of the shrimp. If you see a vein, use your fingers or the very tip of the knife to pull it out. Voila, it’s as easy as that!
Practice makes perfect, so why not practise while making Crispy Chinese Salt and Pepper Shrimps? Prawns are really the main star of this easy 30-minute recipe.
Fried to crispy perfection — not once but twice — the prawns are stir-fried with warming aromatics like ginger, chillies, shallots, garlic and scallions for an overall flavourful coating. A generous amount of salt and pepper completes the dish and hence, its name. This salty, crisy, peppery and aromatic dish is simply irresistible!
Preparation: 30 mins. Serves 3 to 4
8. Are prawns good for me?
Prawns are notably one of the most popular seafood in the world. Not only are they high in protein, prawns are low in fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acid. Although they belong to a crustacean family, not all prawns have the same taste and texture due to its various species.
One of my favourite dishes, this sweet, salty and tangy sambal is appetising, and a perfect perk up to any rice meal. Making a good sambal may sound tedious to some, but you can always make them in big batches to be stored in the fridge or freezer. It’ll definitely come in handy if you feel like making a Sambal Petai Prawns dish using frozen prawns!
On that note, Petai or stinky beans may be an acquired taste. You may omit it if you dislike the distinctive taste and smell of petai, but they are actually nutritional and beneficial to one’s health.
For this, Red Leg Prawns are usually suitable for this recipe for its chewy texture. They may not be as sweet in flavour compared to other prawns, but rest assured that the sweet and tangy sambal makes up for it.
Preparation: 1 hour. Serves 4
Whether it’s fresh or frozen or whatever preference you may have, prawns are delicious, juicy, flavourful and versatile in cooking.
Personally, my take on choosing between the two is to keep the freshest prawns for simplest recipes like steaming and grilling, and freezer-stored prawns for recipes that call for deep frying, a quick stir-frying, in sauces and gravy or for making stock or broth. Nevertheless, whether fresh or frozen, prawns are always the top choice of seafood with everyone! Don’t forget to share your prawn recipes with us on the Meatmen FB Group.
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