Prawn crackersThis is nothing like the pale pink styrofoam that masquerades as prawn crackers at Chinese restaurants. After you’ve tried some made with real prawns, you’ll never eat those tasteless imposters again. Making prawn crackers from scratch is quite common in South East Asia and I was taught this recipe by my mother who grew up in Malaysia.
It’s really quite easy with a bit of sunshine and patience. Finely minced prawn flesh is mixed with salt, white pepper and tapioca flour to make a prawn dough of sorts. Kneaded until it’s just slightly tacky and fashioned into flattish logs, the prawn cracker base is steamed and then cooled completely. Thinly sliced and then dried in the sun for a few days until crisp enough to snap, voila there you have it. Prawn crackers ready to fry!
If you have a mandoline, then I recommend using it to slice the prawn ‘logs’. Cooked quickly in hot vegetable oil, homemade prawn crackers are best eaten within a couple of days before they go stale. The dried prawn cracker slices keep for a good 12 months in a cool, airtight container.The fresh prawns give a clean, seafood flavour and homemade crackers are crunchier than the kind you get at restaurants. You can add other ingredients like baking powder (makes the texture extra bubbly and puff up more) or onion, but I think it’s best to keep it simple. Please avoid using frozen prawns as they’re usually lacking in flavour. This batch makes enough to feed a party crowd. Everyone I tell about homemade prawn crackers seems to think it’s a lot of work. Truthfully, the hardest part is slicing the cooked dough and holding your horses for three days as the sunshine does its work. If you have a dehydrator, I’m sure that’d work too. The wait is totally worth it for the quality snacking alone. Prawn crackers
Start cooking: Four days before eating
Feeds: A crowd
- 500 grams x raw, peeled deveined prawns
- 350 grams x tapioca flour/starch (with 80 grams more on standby)
- 2-3 tablespoons x sea salt
- 2 teaspoons x white pepper
- Using a large knife or mortar and pestle, chop/pound the raw prawns meat until a smooth paste is formed. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to get to this point.
- Place the prawn paste into a large mixing bowl. Add the tapioca flour, white pepper and sea salt to taste.
- Using clean hands, combine the mixture. Use the heel of your hand to knead the dough together for five minutes until completely incorporated.
- The dough should feel slightly tacky but not overly moist. If it still feels quite cool and wet, knead in a little more flour – 20 grams at a time. The more flour you use, the puffier the result, however the prawn flavour will be lessened.
- Split the dough in half and fashion into flattish logs, just over an inch in height.
- Heat up a wok or large pot with water to steam the prawn logs.
- Lightly oil a plate or bamboo steamer and place the prawn dough in the middle, leaving at least an inch between the two logs as they will expand slightly upon steaming.
- Steam the prawn dough for 30-40 minutes until firm and completely cooked.
- Cool the prawn logs overnight in the fridge, covered.
- The next day, use a sharp knife/cleaver/mandoline to create thin crackers, about 1mm-2mm in thickness.
- Place the crackers onto a baking sheet and dry in the sun for about 3 days until the crackers ‘snap’ when bent. Alternatively, use a dehydrator. The drier they are, the better the end result will keep.
- To fry, heat up 500ml of vegetable oil (sunflower, peanut, safflower or rice bran oil are all good choices) in a pot or wok until hot. Drop the crackers into the oil one by one. They should swell up almost immediately. If not, the oil isn’t hot enough yet.
- Move the crackers about quickly in the oil and when they stop expanding, they’re ready. Drain briefly on a large plate lined with a paper towel.
- Serve immediately. They’ll keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container but are best eaten on the day they’re fried.