Salt and Pepper Prawns (椒鹽蝦)

How to win friends and influence people? Serve this dish up! It’s a guaranteed winner for anyone who loves seafood and you’ll have all your guests fighting for the last one on the plate. The only complicated thing about making this dish is buying the prawns and deveining.

Living in a city miles from the sea, frozen prawns are my only option. Look for size 21/25 written on side of the box, with shell, tail and sometimes, head on too. They can be found in the frozen food section at any Chinese supermarket. Of course, you can also buy peeled and deveined prawns which will make preparation even easier but personally, the shell adds to the flavour of the dish!

Note that potato starch rather than cornstarch is used to coast the prawns. Potato starch is much better because it’s lighter, gluten free and can tolerate higher temperature resulting in crispier fried goodies.

By the way, this is the same method for making salt and pepper squid…


  • enough to serve 4 people


  • 500g Tiger prawns, fresh or frozen, shell and tails on, head -optional
  • 150g potato starch
  • 2 large chillies, finely sliced
  • 1/4 onion or shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  • Scissors
  • Chopping board
  • spoons
  • Small bowl
  • Plate
  • Paper kitchen towels
  • Small non-stick saucepan
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Metal slotted spoon


  • Preparation—15 minutes
  • Cooking – 1o minutes


  1. Remove packaging from frozen prawns and place in a large colander in the sink under a slow running cold tap. Occasionally toss the prawns to ensure frozen parts benefit from the flowing water.
  2. Place salt and pepper in a pan and dry roast for 1-2 minutes to release aromas and then take off the heat and pour into a small bowl and set aside to cool down.
  3. When all prawns have defrosted, use a sharp pair of scissors, snip along the back (the smooth side) of the prawns towards the tail to “butterfly” the prawns. Rinse under the tap to remove the dark grey digestive tract/vein running along the back and set aside on a plate covered in kitchen paper towels to blotch out excess water. Repeat with the remaining prawns.
  4. Place all deveined prawns in a large bowl and toss potato starch over the prawns making sure the all the prawns are coated with the flour.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep non-stick pan. Test oil is hot enough by placing a wooden chopstick or a small piece of prawn into the oil, if it sizzled immediately, the oil is hot enough. Fry the prawns in the oil is small batches for 1-2 minutes to until prawns turn pink and shells crisp up. Removed with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper towels. Repeat with remaining prawns.
  6. Heat an non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add a little of the vegetable oil then add the onion/shallots and chilli and fry for around  a minute. Turn up the heat and add the fried prawns and the reserved spice mix, tossing them well to coat the prawns thoroughly with the spices. Toss all ingredients for 1-2 minutes maximum then transfer to a plate. Serve immediately!

Wine Pairing:

Spanish Albarino wine from the coastal region of Rias Baixas with its aromatic notes and refreshing acidity, is a great match for shellfish. In general,  wines with the high acidity help to cut through fried and greasy food, cleansing the palate for the next bite…

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