I love this Thai-inspired dish for its freshness, good looks and fine exotic flavours. Cooking the prawns in their shells not only protects the delicate flesh from drying, it also imparts more complex flavours to the meat. Cutting the prawns in half might actually take longer than peeling them, but the final result is well worth it. Even if this recipe doesn’t inspire you, I recommend that you try to pan-fry/barbecue half prawns in their shells. You’ll be impressed and so will your guests.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for the Thai Prawns:
- 14 large green king prawns*
- 5 medium kaffir lime leaves*, centre vein removed and finely shredded
- 1/2 small red chilli*, finely sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
Ingredients for the Sweet Potato Mash:
- 500 gr sweet potatoes
- 165 ml coconut milk
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
Ingredients for the Pan-Fried Snow Peas:
- 20 snow peas
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 lime
Step 1 – Clean and cut the prawns: Start by removing the prawn heads. Then hold the prawn on its back between your thumb and your index. Using a large knife, navigate your way through the prawn legs to access the softer belly and cut the prawn in half. I admit this is no simple exercise. My best advice is to have a firm grip on the prawn, a long sharp knife and the strength to cut it all the way through in one attempt.
Step 2 – Marinate the prawns: In a bowl, combine the half prawns with a tbsp of olive oil, 5 finely shredded kaffir lime leaves, half a finely sliced small red chilli and 1 finely chopped clove of garlic. Use your hands to stir gently and leave to marinate for 15 minutes*.
Step 3 – Cook the sweet potato mash: Roughly chop the sweet potatoes and cook in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain and return to the saucepan. Mash the sweet potatoes with 165 ml of coconut milk* and add 1 tsp of grated ginger. Salt to taste and stir thoroughly. Return the saucepan to low heat, stirring occasionally, until the other elements of the dish are ready.
Step 4 – Prepare the snow peas: Wash the snow peas and cut off the ends. In a bowl, marinate the snow peas with 1 tbsp vegetable oil, and 1 tsp fresh ginger and 1 clove of garlic, both grated.
Step 5 – Cook the prawns: Bring a large frying pan to high heat. Using tongs, place the prawns, one-by-one and shell-down, in the frying pan. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the flesh turns opaque. Turn-off the heat and plate the prawns immediately. Salt to taste. Keep the frying pan on the stove to cook the snow peas.
Step 6 – Cook the snow peas: Back on high heat, cook the snow peas for about 3 minutes, stirring regularly. They need to remain bright green and crunchy. Add a squeeze of lime juice, salt to taste and transfer into a serving bowl.
Step 7 – Serve: Place a generous serving of sweet potato mash onto the plates and arrange the prawns all around. Stick a few snow peas into the mash for presentation and drizzle with lime juice.
Mix & Match
Not keen on kaffir lime leaves? Try with Thai basil instead. These prawns can also be served on their own as an appetiser/entrée.
A Gewürztraminer. This grape goes particularly well with Thai flavours. The one I sampled, Penfolds Cellar Reserve 2010 from Eden Valley in South Australia, worked wonders.
*Did you Know?
- Prawns are a very lean source of protein and are low in heavy metals
- Kaffir lime leaves can be frozen in a freezing bag or air-tight container for up to 1 year. Rinse the leaves and pad them dry before freezing. They will lose some of their colour, but the flavour will remain.
- The pungency of red chilli varies depending on the growing conditions and the ripeness of the fruit. I recommend that you cut a tiny piece and put it against your tongue for 1 second or so to test its pungency before deciding on the amount to be used. Most of the pungency comes from the seeds so you might want to remove them.
- One should carefully follow suggested marinating times, particularly if using lemon, as it slowly, but surely, cooks seafood.
- Coconut milk can be purchased in small 165 ml cans.