Pepper assam prawns

Pepper assam prawns

Have You Eaten
Billy Law

Assam prawns, or tamarind prawns, is one of my favourite Nyonya seafood dishes. There are many versions made with different styles of tamarind sauce, but I prefer the dry version as it has an intense sourness from the tamarind sauce that accentuates the sweetness of the prawns. Use your fingers to pick up the prawns and suck all the sweet and sour juices on the shells before peeling them — that’s the beauty of eating prawns with shells on. Prepare a bowl of water with a few lime wedges in it, to wash your sticky fingers afterwards.


Quantity Ingredient
500g raw prawns
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
125ml hot water
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy caramel
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Trim the prawns’ legs with scissors, then cut along the spine and remove the intestinal tract. Rinse the prawns and place in a bowl. Add the salt and mix well, then fill the bowl with water until the prawns are fully submerged. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. Soak the tamarind pulp in the hot water for 10 minutes. Strain the tamarind liquid into a bowl, pressing the pulp with a wooden spoon to extract all the tamarind paste. Discard the seeds and pulp.
  3. Remove the prawns from the refrigerator, rinse and pat dry with paper towel. Pour the vegetable oil into a wok until about half full, then heat the oil to 190°C…‰ over medium–high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dipping a wooden chopstick into the hot oil — if the oil starts steadily bubbling around the chopstick, it’s ready. Working in batches, deep-fry the prawns for 3 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  4. Pour the hot oil out of the wok, and reserve 2 tablespoons of oil. Wipe the wok clean, then heat it up again with the reserved oil. Pour in the tamarind water, sesame oil and dark soy caramel, season with sugar and black pepper, then simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Return the prawns to the wok, stirring well to make sure they are well coated in the sauce. Serve with steamed rice.
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