• Prep Time -
  • Cook Time -
  • Serving For 3-4 people
  • Difficulty Easy, Normal

Recipe Description

Tamarind prawns, also known as asam prawns, are a classic Peranakan dish known for their distinctive flavour profile. This dish is unique in that it relies on just a few key ingredients: tamarind, salt, sugar, and dark soy sauce. Unlike many other Peranakan dishes, it’s not spicy, making it a perfect choice for those who prefer milder flavours, including kids.

The secret to achieving the rich and well-rounded flavour in tamarind prawns is marination. Marinating the prawns for at least 2 hours is recommended, but an even better approach is to marinate them as soon as you return from the market and cook them for dinner. Marinating overnight is not advised, as raw prawns tend to lose their freshness over extended periods.

Tamarind prawns are typically made with large prawns, such as tiger prawns or grass prawns. While jumbo-sized prawns such as ming har or sang har can be used, they are not necessary. The key is to ensure that the prawns you choose are fresh. Avoid prawns with orange heads, as this can indicate the deterioration of the brain matter.

Deveining the prawns is an important step in the preparation process. The conventional method involves making a slit along the back and scraping out the gut. However, an alternative method is to use a toothpick inserted between the second and third segment (tergum) to pull out the gut in one long string. This method can be more efficient and visually appealing.

What sets tamarind prawns apart is the slight char that develops during cooking. This char results from the sugar and dark soy sauce caramelizing and burning in the hot oil. This process gives the dish a mildly smoky flavour and creates a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter notes in every bite.

Tamarind prawns are best served hot with a drizzle of the gristle from the burnt oil. This not only adds to the flavour but also enhances the presentation of the dish. While it’s not a particularly saucy dish, you may pour in any leftover marinade to cook in the oil, creating a tangy sauce that can be served alongside the prawns. This sauce complements the dish and pairs excellently with steamed rice.

It’s a delightful Peranakan dish that showcases the beauty of simplicity and expert marination. The combination of tamarind, salt, sugar, and dark soy sauce, along with the unique charred flavour, creates a dish that’s a true explosion of flavours. Serve it hot with a drizzle of burnt oil and a side of tangy sauce for a memorable and satisfying meal.

Recipe Ingredient

  • 500g large prawns
  • 80g tamarind pulp
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ cup cooking oil for frying


  1. Place the tamarind pulp into a small bowl and pour in hot water to soften for about 20 minutes, then strain through a wire sieve to extract the juice and set aside.
  2. To devein the prawn, insert a toothpick into between the second and third segment of the prawns and extract the gut and discard.
  3. Pour the tamarind juice over the prawns and stir in the salt, sugar and dark soy sauce to marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  4. When ready to cook, heat the oil in a frying pan on high and fry each side for about 2 minutes until crispy, aromatic and slightly burnt.
  5. Drizzled with some burnt oil and serve immediately.

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