Roasted Butter Prawns
In Singapore, you will find all-rounder Chinese stalls selling a wide variety of à la carte dishes similar to what you might find at a restaurant, but in wallet-friendly coffeeshop settings, called tze char. Tze char stalls tend to have more creative home-style items on the menu compared to a traditional restaurant.
Butter prawns is a relatively modern dish that the experimental tze char chefs of Singapore concocted by combining the different cuisines found in our multicultural society. What results is a killer combination of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western ingredients and flavours. Fresh prawns are deep-fried with their shells on to retain their juices, then fried in butter with soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, toasted coconut and curry leaves. I’ve made this simpler by marinating the prawns in the seasonings, then roasting them whole. (There is nothing more terrifying than dropping prawns into hot oil, however much you try to dab off any excess moisture.) The roasted prawns are sweet, juicy and buttery, but the random toasty bits and crispy leaves on the side are just as addictive – salty, garlicky, nutty and fragrant with the exotic perfume of curry.
- 500g raw king prawns (MSC approved if possible)
- 3 tbsp organic butter
- 8 bird's-eye chillies
- 3 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
- 100g desiccated coconut
- For the marinade:
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp unrefined light brown sugar
- a pinch of sea salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Devein the prawns by cutting through the shells, along the top of the back with a pair of sharp scissors. Lift out the vein with the tip of the scissors and pull to remove. This method keeps the shells on so that the prawns retain their delicious juices, but also allows the marinade to penetrate the flesh. Put the prawns into a bowl.
Combine the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the prawns. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 230°C/gas 8.
Spread the prawns out on a large roasting tray greased with butter, and then dot the butter all over. Halve the chillies and scatter over, along with the curry leaves. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until the prawns are just cooked.
Meanwhile, dry-toast the desiccated coconut in a pan over a medium heat, stirring often until golden brown and fragrant. Remove the tray from the oven and stir in half the toasted coconut (kerisik). The toasted coconut will absorb the juices from the prawns and is one of the best bits of this dish.
Let the prawns rest a little, until cool enough to touch. Scatter the remaining kerisik over and stir though. Serve straight from the tray and let everybody dig in with their hands