Prawns out of their shells

Prawns out of their shells

Green Pickled Peaches
3 or 4 as small plate
Chris Chen

This was conceived as a way to cook prawns out of their shells while maintaining the very integrity that’s so nice about cooking them in their shells. I’ve used a frying oil flavoured with the shells to make for a more prawn-related flavour. And the synthesised prawn shells echo the sound of crunching on real shells. A note on the ingredients... Tomalley is the orange substance found in the head of prawns, also known as the ‘liver’ of shellfish. For the tomalley to be usable, the shellfish must be very fresh.

For the prawns


Quantity Ingredient
12 large prawns
300ml olive oil
1 red asian shallot, cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves, smashed
4cm piece of ginger, smashed
2 bird’s eye chillies, slit in the middle t o prevent bursting during frying
1/2 carrot, roughly chopped

For the honeyed prawn sauce

Quantity Ingredient
50ml honey
2-3 tablespoons tomalley
2 tablespoons ginger juice, (see note)
1 tablespoon spring onion juice, (see note)
2 tablespoons garlic juice, (see note)
lime juice, to taste
6 square dried rice papers
small rocket leaves, to garnish


  1. Prepare the prawns:
  2. Remove the prawn heads and squeeze out the tomalley into a bowl set over ice so that it doesn’t deteriorate. Remove the shells and set aside with the emptied heads. Devein the prawns with a skewer.
  3. Prepare the prawn oil:
  4. Pour a few spoonfuls of the olive oil into a saucepan over medium–high heat. When hot, add the shallot, garlic, ginger, chillies and carrot and cook until slightly softened. Add the prawn shells and heads. Let the mixture get hot, then add the rest of the oil. Initially the oil will be opaque and will acquire a reddish colour as the flavour is extracted from the prawns and vegetables and moisture is cooked out. The flavoursome stage is reached when the oil is clear and makes a crisp sizzling sound. Take off the heat, cool and strain through a fine sieve.
  5. Make the honeyed prawn sauce:
  6. Bring the honey to the boil in a small saucepan. Let it caramelise over medium heat for about 15 minutes until it smells toasty and turns a darker colour. Combine the tomalley and juices. Heat 100 ml prawn oil in a non-stick pan over medium–high heat. Add the tomalley mixture and fry until the raw eggy aroma has been cooked out. Add the caramelised honey and then taste: it should be very savoury and have some sourness, so adjust with salt and lime juice.
  7. Make the prawn parcels:
  8. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip the rice papers in the water for a few seconds until just pliable. Remove, cut in half and dry on a tea towel. Season the prawns with some salt and pepper and then loosely roll a rice paper half around each prawn. Heat a non-stick pan over medium–high heat, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of prawn oil and fry the prawn parcels for 2 minutes or so on each side until crisp. Drain and serve immediately, dressed with honeyed prawn sauce and garnished with rocket and drops of fragrant prawn oil.

To make ginger, spring onion and garlic juices

  • Make ginger juice by pressing grated fresh ginger through a fine sieve and collecting the liquid. To make spring onion juice, roughly chop a couple of spring onions (scallions) and pound with a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt, then press through a fine sieve to extract the juice. To make garlic juice, pound 4 garlic cloves with a little salt to make a paste, then pass through a fine sieve to extract the juice.
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