Seafood is one of my favourite foods to eat. It’s light, tasty and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated and heavy like the land meats. Prawns are a particular favourite – once they’re shelled, you’ve got a firm, almost crispy, sweet, juicy piece of seafood that is so very, very satisfying. Deep fried crunchy mini school prawns in their shells are another favourite of mine – you just eat them, head, shell, body and tail. Crunch, texture and full of marvelous prawnie flavour, most of which you’ll find in the prawn head.
Money wasn’t plentiful when we were growing up, so prawns were only for special occasions like birthdays, Chinese New Year or when guests came over. Mum would stir fry the prawns in their shells with some shallots, onion, red capsicum and oyster sauce. As soon as she put the plate on the table, my older sister A, younger brother W and I would go into a feeding frenzy, shelling and eating as many and as fast as we could. W would sometimes shell and stockpile a whole lot of prawns in his bowl until we protested that he wasn’t playing fair. We’d make him eat his stockpile before he was allowed to shell some more.
My parents would eat 1 prawn each and then suck on the prawn heads that we generously gave to them. The prawn heads are the best, they’ve got the most flavour they would say whenever we wrinkled up our faces at their preferred delicacy.
Years later, we could eat prawns whenever we wanted, for no occasion at all. And that was when I noticed my parents eating the prawn bodies and tossing the prawn heads away… and that was when I realized that when prawn money was scarce, they were just saving the prawns for us.
This dish is one of my parent’s favourite dishes – no prawn heads in sight, just in flavour!
Coriander Prawns With Glass Noodles
- 500g king prawns, peeled – make sure you keep the prawn heads in a small pot and discard the shells. You’ll need the prawn heads to make the prawn stock.
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons coriander stems and roots, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
- 3 spring onions (white and green sections), chopped into 2 cm lengths
- 250g bean thread/mung bean noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 mins and drained
- 250g broccoli chopped into florets
- Coriander leaves to garnish
- In a mortar, pound the black peppercorns until crushed.
- Add garlic, coriander roots or stems and salt, and pound to form a paste.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the paste and mix well.
- Add the paste to the peeled prawns, toss to coat and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Add 2 cups water to the prawn heads and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 mins to make prawn stock.
- In a separate bowl, mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
Putting everything together:
- Preheat a 2 L clay pot or cast iron pot over medium heat.
- When the pot is hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the prawns, a few at a time, and brown without stirring.
- Turn the prawn over and brown the other side. Don’t cook the prawns through.
- Transfer them to a bowl and brown the rest of the prawns.
- Increase the heat to high and add the ginger, green onions, prawn stock and sauce.
- Bring to a bowl, add the noodles and stir to mix.
- Scatter the broccoli and prawns on top.
- Cover, reduce the heat to medium and gently boil, stirring once or twice – this should take about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and garnish with coriander.
- If you don’t like the idea of cooking prawn heads, just add chicken stock or water.
- Traditionally, this dish is served straight from the clay pot.
- The glass noodles are crucial to this dish, it absorbs the sauce fantastically but won’t go soggy or gluggy like rice noodles.
- If you’re using a clay pot, make sure you soak it in water the night before, otherwise it may crack when you put heat to it.
- I’ve adapted this recipe from ‘Savouring Southeast Asia’ by Joyce Jue (The Five Mile Press)