Monday, November 8, 2010

In the Kitchen: Simplest Basic Crunchy Prawn Salad

Monday, November 8, 2010
Crunchy Prawn Salad
Crunchy Prawn Salad on Toast
Prawn Salad on Toast for Breakfast

I've always been intrigued by prawns with that much coveted crunch. What is it that gives them such great texture? Why do home-made prawn dishes always taste so different from those we get at restaurants? In a bid to finally answer the questions that have haunted me for the longest time, I set out to make my own crunchy prawns, did a fair bit of research and found what is possibly the single most interesting pointer: pH9 alkaline water is the secret to crunchy prawns. Following that most tap water tend to be close to pH9, and baking soda and egg white are both pH8, things do seem a tad clearer now, don't they? I found this secret via Rasa Malaysia, and they actually do have a more complicated method of preparing the prawns, but I decided to approach the matter the simpler way.

My other source of inspiration was from the Makansutra forum, where blanching was said to be the secret to crunchy prawns. What I did was basically a little of both, and it worked perfectly. It was so great, suddenly everything I made seemed too little for both of us. All I did was soak the prawns in tap water and blanch. I called this a prawn salad, but the crunchy prawns would work for everything. It could be a mango prawn corktail or tossed into your favourite aglio olio. And you could add so many things to the salad too: avocado, cucumber cubes, even caviar if you're going for lux. The possibilities are seriously endless. But be sure to start off with fresh prawns! Nothing can save a stale prawn from mush.

Simplest Basic Crunchy Prawn Salad

9 medium sized prawns
1 teaspoon of salt
Mayonnaise to taste
(portion for 2)

Rinse the prawns a few times with tap water in a bowl. Leave the prawns to soak in the tap water and use a tooth pick to remove the intestines. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add a teaspoon of salt.

When water starts to boil, add the prawns and time for 3 minutes (if you're using frozen prawns), 2 minutes (if you're using thawed/fresh prawns) and 1 minute (if you plan to use this for a cooked dish). At the same time, prepare a bowl of tap water with ice. Once time is up, remove the prawns from the pot and plunge them into the ice water for 10 minutes. Shell and use accordingly.

For the salad, pat the prawns dry with paper towels. Slice them into chunks and add mayonnaise to taste. My favourite mayonnaise is the Japanese mayonnaise that looks like this:

P.S. If you're pressed for time, shell the prawns in the ice water, keeping the shelled prawns submerged in the ice water until all the prawns have been shelled. Prawns would retain its crunch when kept refrigerated. To keep well in the refrigerator, pat dry with paper towels and use a cling wrap.

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