The Chinese people have a penchant to give auspicious sounding names to their cuisine and Chinese New Year is the time that these names usually appear on the menu.
Prawns are usually considered auspicious because the word in Cantonese, hee haa dai siu, sounds like laughing out loud. There are countless ways to cook prawns for Chinese New Year, and every family has its own version of the dish. It doesn’t really matter what the recipe is as long as it contains prawns and they are large, sometimes extra large.
The recipe I’m sharing today is pan-fried prawns. It has remained an all-time favourite because the simple ingredients retain the unadulterated flavour of the prawns. This dish is easy to prepare and will be enjoyed by all as long as the prawns are fresh.
Because the price of this ingredient tends to go up the nearer we get to Chinese New Year, some people buy them ahead of time and freeze them. I’m not a fan of frozen prawns but sometimes it just gets to be too expensive.
My wife’s solution to retaining the freshness of prawns is to fill up a plastic container with prawns and pour in cold water until level with the top of the prawns. Freeze them quickly before crystals form in the ice. Then thaw out the whole block of prawns when needed. I find the texture would not be as good as fresh but at least it’s not so costly.
You can split the spine of the prawns to devein the intestinal tract, but I like to keep the shells intact. I have learned to push a toothpick into the middle gap of the carapace and pull out the gut. It’s quite satisfying when the whole vein comes out together with the black content.
Since we are frying the prawns on high heat, the dish will appear to be quite charred. Don’t be alarmed because the brief cooking time will not turn it bitter, but will add a nice wok hei to the dish–the breath of the wok to breathe a fresh start to the new year.
- 12 large prawns, about 400g
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5g old ginger, finely julienned
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 sprig scallions, chopped
- 1 red chilli, julienned
- Degut the prawns and trim off the horns and whiskers.
- Heat cooking oil in a wok over medium. Fry ginger until crispy. Reserve ginger to be used as garnish.
- In the ginger oil, add chopped garlic and lightly sauté until wilted. Bring heat up to high. Add prawns to fry on one side about 2 minutes. Flip prawns over and fry another 1 minute until well charred. Add wine, soy sauce and sugar, and toss quickly.
- Remove from wok to arrange on a platter. Garnish with scallions, chillies and crispy ginger, and serve hot.