On almost every special occasion I had growing up, especially during birthdays, there would almost always be a plate of prawns for me. My mum believes it brings good luck, like how Chinese people have longevity noodles during New Years hoping for a longer life. Mum would grab a few pieces, put them on my plate and say ‘HA HA DAI SIU‘. If you are wondering… prawn in Cantonese is pronounced as ‘Ha‘, which is a homophonic pun for laughter and ‘ha ha dai siu‘ directly translates to laughing with a gigantic smile, so apparently it’ll bring me lots of joy and laughter for the year. Regardless, I’m going to have the prawns either way as I genuinely LOVE them! Prawns always remind me of the times in Singapore at an All-you-can eat Hot Pot restaurant, where my entire family of 5 would collect LARGE plates of prawns time after time. It was incredibly embarrassing, but totally worth it, and definitely one of the best memories I had with my family as a kid.
Anyway…butter prawns! How I came across learning this happened many years ago and entirely accidental. It was the first time I wanted to personally cook prawns instead of just eating them, and I was craving Western garlic butter prawns, so I googled ‘butter prawns‘, and this came up instead. I was definitely fascinated by it especially when I saw curry leaves! I lived in Singapore my entire childhood and I was amazed I could not remember coming across this. I might have but probably too little to remember. This dish seems to be a Malaysian dish but originated by the Chinese especially due to the technique, but it is a combination with Malay, Indian and Western as well. I tried a simple version of it and absolutely loved it!! Eventually I even tried incorporating the crazy difficult egg floss, but keep in mind, even if you don’t add the egg floss, it still tastes AMAZING! FYI, this dish was one of the 5 main courses I made for Ben the first time I cooked for him, and it definitely was a winner.
To begin… prepare the prawns. I used to leave the heads on for some flavour, but Ben does not like the heads and they do make it hard to eat. You may de-shell them entirely, but the shells do add flavour and prevents overcooking. They definitely give a much better aesthetic due to the bright red colour. For easier peeling, I slit the backs. Don’t forget to de-vein them! Whilst preparing prawns, I usually run them under a cold running tap to firm up the exposed flesh, giving them a nicer texture. Once preparation is done, pad them dry, sprinkle a dash of salt, and get ready for deep frying. They should be flash fried for about 30 seconds on high heat of about 180°C if you have a thermometer. Drain them and set aside.
Egg floss time! This is … incredibly exhausting at first. Pick a good arm, use those muscles! I use … Ben. This recipe uses egg whites as well, mainly because I don’t want to waste them or worry about having to use them. Besides, after mixing them with some milk, they give a nice lighter golden brown colour. If you have a jug with a pointy pour tip, use it! It makes pouring easier and most importantly, gives you a finer floss like look. Reuse the oil for deep drying prawns, reheat them to medium to high of 150°C. If too high, it will over burn the egg. Add in the butter and let it melt until it starts to bubble, mix and whisk in one direction for practice, and to warm up your muscles! Slowly but as consistent as you can, pour the egg mixture in and rapidly whisk it. The higher you lift the jug and pour, the easier it is to produce a fine line of the mixture as it drops into the oil, giving you the ‘floss‘. Constantly mix for a minute, you will see it foaming and rising over time. After a minute, pour and drain it through a large sieve or large skimmer spoon and leave it aside.
Wash and reheat the wok. Add in the butter, followed by the garlic, chillies and curry leaves. When fragrant, pour in the light soy sauce, sugar, Shaoxing wine and evaporated milk. Let it simmer and reduce for about 30 seconds, before adding in the prawns. Briefly toss around to evenly spread the sauce and cover the wok with a lid. Let it cook for a minute before removing lid. Sprinkle the coconut flakes in thirds to evenly coat prawns, followed by the egg floss. Briefly toss around and it’s ready to serve and dig in immediately!