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Salt and pepper prawns

If I had to pick my five top dishes of all time (and from my book), salt and pepper prawns would firmly be on the list. Fat juicy prawns are rolled in cornflour (cornstarch) salt,chili and ground peppercorns and deep fried until crisp. But these are no ordinary peppercorns, they are Sichuan. The Chinese call them ‘strange flavour’ which best describes its character. Your tongue goes a little numb when you eat them and it has a celery seed-like flavour. It’s actually not a peppercorn at all but a dried red berry. Mixed with sea salt and black pepper, it makes a stunning rub for duck, chicken or seafood. Although its not Chinese, I serve them with a lime dipping sauce. A wok is best for deep-frying because you don’t need that much oil. If you want to make a sumptuous starter for the holidays, this is it. To make them look a bit more special and easy to eat, I threaded some soaked wooden skewers through them. They aren’t an ideal ‘make ahead’ dish but are best eaten piping hot from the wok. Most families congregate in the kitchen anyways, so line a big tray with newspaper along with a bowl of the dipping sauce and watch them go quick.

Salt and pepper prawns
preparation time 5 minutes
cooking time 10 minutes
serves 6

2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
24 large green (raw) prawns, peeled and deveined
24 wooden skewers soaked for 10 minutes in water
1 quantity lime dipping sauce

sichuan spice mix
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
6 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
pinch of chilli flakes

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). To make the Sichuan spice mix, toast the Sichuan and black peppercorns in a frying pan over medium heat for 1 minute or until fragrant. Finely grind in a spice mill or using a mortar and pestle, add the salt and chilli flakes and mix in. Transfer to a bowl.

Thread the prawns onto the skewers starting at the tail end. Combine the spice mix with cornflour. Heat 71/2 cm (3 inches) oil in a large wok or heavy-based deep saucepan until 170ºC (325ºF). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by frying a small piece of bread. It should sizzle instantly and take 20 seconds to turn golden. Toss the prawns with the spice mixture, shake off excess and deep-fry, in batches, for 1–2 minutes or until crisp at edges and the edges turn white and pink. Remove with tongs, drain on a baking tray lined with paper towels. Serve with the dipping sauce

Recipe, food and prop styling by Jennifer Joyce photo by Mowie Kay

6 Comments

  1. I love prawns and yours looks so good. I like food with simple ingredients.
    What is the difference between regular and Sichuan peppercorns?

  2. mealsinheels says:

    Well, sichuan peppers are reddish-coloured and have a very different flavour. Once you try it you will be hooked! Most UK supermarkets carry them and in the US, Whole Foods is likely to stock them as well.

  3. Mei Teng says:

    Those prawns looked yummy. Beautiful food photo.

  4. catty says:

    Now if only you came to the food on sticks lunch!!!

  5. Ann says:

    These prawns are fab and the lime dipping sauce is the best I’ve tried! The sichuan peppers have a distinctive “numbing” taste really lovely.
    This is a nice starter too.

  6. mealsinheels says:

    My favorite too. Glad to hear you pre-ordered the book! Thanks for your support.

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