Sunday, 7 August 2011

Spicy Chilli Prawns Summer Stirfry (an inquisitive comparative study)

Following that cashew chicken stir-fry to test out my research on chinese stir-fries, here's one to prove the velveting really does work, not just on meat, but also on prawns. I did it once with snow peas, the other time with yellow bell peppers (both abundant in summer right now), and am pleasantly surprised by the wonderful bouncy smooth texture of the velveted prawns the second time round. Ok I concede that it's quite a few extra steps and require thinking ahead, but it's not much more effort per se, and really quite worth it for the results you get. Then again, unless I really want to impress, I have a feeling I'll probably opt for the lazy way out, so you can ask the hongkong dimsum chef in you and decide.

Stir-fried Spicy Chilli Prawns with Peppers and Mushrooms
serves 4-5
500g uncooked shrimps/prawns (if using frozen, defrost. make sure they are fresh/freshly frozen at least or no amount of velveting will help.)
1 large sweet bell pepper (I used yellow. Red/orange is sweet too. I don't like the green one that much)
1 large handful of fresh button/chestnut mushrooms
1 large onion
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (shaoxing/huadiao)
1 tbsp palm/coconut/groundnut oil

Chilli paste
1-2 red chillies (you can pop in a bird's eye chilli for more heat if you want, or use the normal kind. You can also use or 1-2 tbsp ground chilli powder)
1 tbsp soy sauce (I use naturally brewed tamari)
2 shallots

For velveting
1 heaped tbsp of baking soda
ice water
1 small egg white
1 1/2 tsp tapioca starch

1. Prepare the prawns first by deveining (either by slitting the back or this fantastic toothpick method). Then submerge in ice water with the baking soda for 30 min. Rinse off in cold running water, pat dry, then marinate in egg white and tapioca starch for 1h or overnight.
2. Slice the vegetables into even-sized pieces and blend the ingredients for the chilli paste together.
3. Heat wok over high heat, add oil. Add your velveted prawns and stir-fry till it just turns pink, then remove and set aside.
4. Now add chilli paste with onions into the wok, stir-fry till you smell the aroma of the chilli and the onions turn translucent.
5. Add the peppers and mushrooms, and continue stir-frying quickly till they're nicely seared, 1-2 min.
6. Add your 80% cooked prawns with the tbsp of rice wine, and continue stir-frying quickly till everything is nicely mixed and coated and the liquid evaporates. Don't overcook! Serve immediately.

Finished Spicy Chilli Prawns, Peppers and Mushrooms Stirfry

I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but the prawns were exceptionally smooth, plump and "crunchy" (what the chinese call "QQ"). It added a great contrast of textures to the crisp and tender sweet bell peppers and the soft caramelised onions and mushrooms, and of course, everything tastes better with chilli so there's no way you can go wrong.

Below is a photo of a stirfry done similarly, but using 1. un-velveted, 2. slit-in-the-back-to-remove-the-vein prawns. If you compare the photos, you might be able to see these prawns are a little less QQ (because of 1), and that they curl into a butterflied ball (because of 2).

Spicy Chilli Prawns and Snow Peas Stirfry

The dish was still really yum, especially with the natural sweetness and crunchiness of fresh snow peas, and like I said, everything tastes better with chilli. Do and use what you like for your own prawn and vegetable stir-fry(:


  1. Your dish look so yummy, must have more rice to go with it.

  2. "everything tastes better with chilli so there's no way you can go wrong." Truly writen like a real Indonesian! Hahaha!

    I actually like the 2nd one, in terms of look- especially the prawn. Looks like a pro!
    I think I may posts somethings about baking soda in the future. It helps with texture but it kills all vitamins...etc.
    Liking how you call it a 'study'. Hehehe.

  3. Stir fries are the best way to go in the summer, especially with some added spice. This looks delicious!

  4. thanks!

    Sonia: Yes of course! Nice over noodles too!

    Pierre: haha you can slit the back to devein it, but do the velveting method for the best of both worlds then! DOES BAKING SODA REALLY KILL ALL VITAMINS??? OMG, please keep me updated!

    Joanne: haha. Maybe that's why I've grown up being so partial towards stirfries.. it's summer in singapore the whole year round!

  5. Unrefined groundnut oil is a new ingredient for me. I would love to try it.

  6. I just love prawns! And I definitely think having them in a spicy way is my favorite way to eat them =)

  7. I am a firm believer in velveting.. I just find that I get lazy sometimes and want to skip that step :) This stir fry sounds delightful!

  8. thanks!

    jenn: heh, me too actually..esp since i need to also sacrifice an egg and have some leftover yolk or a bit of white ><

  9. Hi! How do you prepare the egg white marinade? Do you just mix the tapioca in until it dissolves?

    1. Hello! Just sort of massage the prawns with the tapioca starch then coat with egg white .You can beat the egg white lightly (not till frothy or anything) just to loosen it up. Good luck! x