Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Singapore Chili Prawns

Singapore Chili Prawns
Home Cooking

I've mentioned before that this is one of my favorite dishes, like, ever. I got into the whole 'Singapore Chili' thing by means of chili bugs (here and here)... and from there, progressed to the proper mud crab version. Ecstatically good.

When something leaves such a good impression in your head, I almost advise AGAINST attempting to do it yourself because SURELY, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Nonetheless, a few cooking shows and online recipes later, I was encouraged to give it a go.

No way was I going to risk something as dear as a mud crab (which is not just exxy but also trickier to cook at home) so I opted for the prawn version. Safer but I could still imagine it being awesome.

I saw a method of cooking chili mud crab on Food Safari (here) but my final method is a cross between that and this recipe for chili prawns.

Singapore Chili Prawns
Serves 2-3

  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 large red chili, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 cm of ginger, chopped
  • 6 large tiger prawns, de-veined and prepared (I opted to leave the shells on, Chinese-style)
  • 4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 2 tsp sugar (I used palm sugar)
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 egg
  • coriander to garnish
  • rice or white bread to serve with

1. In a blender/food processor, blitz together the onion, chili, garlic and ginger until it is paste-like.2. In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce, sweet chili sauce, tomato paste and lime juice.3. Dissolve the cornflour with the 1/2 cup of water and set aside.
4. In a wok, heat up a bit of vegetable oil. Fry the onion paste until it becomes slightly browned.5. Add the prawns and stir-fry until color change JUST occurs.
6. Add the tomato sauce mixture and reduce the heat to a simmer.7. After about 5min, add the water with cornflour (mix it up a bit just before you add it because otherwise, the cornflour would have settled) and stir in. Bring it back up to the boil.
8. Adjust the flavors with addition of sugar and soy sauce (for saltiness). You might wish to adjust the levels of tomato sauce and/or lime juice too. The hardest part is getting a nice flavor balance.
9. One the seasoning is corrected, break an egg in and gently stir it around so that you get streams of egginess throughout the sauce. Obviously you can beat the egg first before adding it in but either way is fine.
10. Serve hot with rice/bread and garnished with a bit of coriander.

I had a bit of an incident with palm-sugar over kill so my sauce was on the sweet side (I added more palm sugar than the above recipe specifies). That aside, the flavors were still wonderfully complex: sweet, salty, sour and chili. A genius combination!

The heroes of the dish were the HUGE tiger prawns that my dad sourced. Great work. I made this meal for my parents because they liked the mud crab version at Kingsleys so much.

They are quite brutal with their feedback so: mum's opinion is that the sauce was too sweet and the flavors seemed more 'obvious' (her exact phrasing was that she had no idea what was in the Kingsley sauce but she could tell mine had tomato sauce). Dad has a sweet palate so he didn't mind that... in fact, he was quite happy to mop up the left over sauce with bread the next day. However, when I mentioned that some recipes I read called for shrimp paste, they both exclaimed that this might be the missing 'x factor'.

The sauce was also quite 'intense' so I might add a bit more starchy water next time to make it SLIGHTLY soupier and less 'paste-like'.

All in all, this recipe is really easy to reproduce and the result is tasty but might still need some work. I'm leaning towards a method that doesn't require sweet chili sauce because whilst I know that the recipe traditionally calls for tomato sauce, I think it is the sweet chili that reduced authenticity? In the future, I'd also like to beef up the spice factor because even mum thought the sauce was mild! But that's of course, a matter of preference.


  1. Those are beautiful prawns and the sauce looks so flavorful!

  2. Wow your chili prawns looks great. Nicely done