For this recipe I wanted to create a simple grilled seafood dish that highlights classic Vietnamese flavours and the simplicity of cooking fresh seafood. This way of simply grilling prawns or any other type of seafood for that matter is extremely common in Vietnam, as its the focus on the freshness of the seafood without overpowering it that makes these types dishes work so well. I think even myself can sometimes complicate food but this type of dish is a great one to bring you back and realise that occasionally less is more. With all that said let's cook!
Prep Time 25-30 mins / Cook Time 10-15 mins
To serve 4
Prawns and Spice Crumb:
12 large whole tiger prawns
8 garlic cloves (yes 8)
3 small shallots
2 lemongrass stalks
4 spring onions
1/4 bunch coriander
lime to serve
drizzle of cooking oil
2 heaping tbsps cornflour
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp korean chilli-flakes or chilli flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp white sugar
Let's begin with preparing the tiger prawns, as for purchasing you want to try and source the largest and freshest whole prawns you can find. To prep the prawns we want to butterfly them shell on which is a great way to grill them. Using a sharp knife make a long incision on the back of the whole prawn starting from the bottom of the head right down to the tail. You want to slice roughly 3/4 deep into the prawn as this will make it easier to butterfly. When ready flatten out the prawn using the back of a knife then remove the long tract attached to the prawn. Place the butterflied prawns onto a tray and repeat this for all of the prawns.
2. Now to make the dredge for the prawns, start by adding 1 tsp of coriander seeds to a dry pan and toast on a high heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Next add 1 tsp of korean chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of white pepper and 1 tsp of sugar then toast for a further 30 seconds along with the coriander seeds. Add the spice mix to a pestle and mortar and grind until fine.
3. To make the dredge add 2 heaped tbsps of cornflour to a bowl then add 3/4 of the spice mix and mix well. Keep 1/4 of the spice mix to one side as we will use this to season the prawns at the very end.
4. Next onto making the soul of the dish, a fragrant bunch of finely sliced herbs and spices that will take the prawns to that next level. As some of the ingredients here will cook at different times, when preparing its best to separate them individually to make the cooking process much easier. Start by finely mincing 8 garlic cloves, bruise and finely slice 2 lemongrass stalks, peel and finely dice 3 small shallots, finely slice 1 long red chilli, finely slice the green part of 4 spring onions and roughly chop 1/4 bunch of coriander. Place all of the ingredients separately to one side and we are now ready to cook.
5. Now to cook, I chose to cook the prawns over a griddle here, however, you could bbq, deep fry or pan fry also. Start by adding the butterflied prawns to the dredge and evenly coat. Next place a griddle pan onto a high heat and wait until the pan becomes smoking hot.
6. When the griddle starts to smoke, drizzle with cooking oil then add the dredged prawns flesh side down first to prevent them from curling. Add the prawns in batches depending on how big your griddle/pan is. Sear on the flesh side for 1 minute then flip the prawns and sear on the other side for a further 1 minute. We will cook these at the very end again so its best to try and not overcook if you can at this point. When just cooked the prawns should be nice and charred and have become a vibrant bright orange/red colour. Place the cooked prawns onto kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil.
7. Now that the prawns are just about cooked we can move on to the herb crumb, in a frying pan drizzle with oil and place onto a medium to high heat. Next add all of the minced garlic, lemongrass and shallots and stirfry for a good 5 minutes whilst constantly stirring to prevent from burning. What we are looking to achieve is all of these ingredients to become golden brown and crispy. When ready we now want to add the remaining coriander seed salt seasoning we saved from earlier, the sliced red chilli, spring onions and coriander and continue to stir fry.
8. Now that the crumb is nice and crispy and fragrant we want to add the cooked prawns to the crumb and briefly stirfry together on a high heat for a final minute. At this point we want to try and get a good crisp on the prawns and coat as much as possible in the crumb. When ready remove from the heat and we are ready to serve.
9. To serve add the prawns to a large serving plate then pour over the remaining crumb over the top. Finish with a squeeze of lime and these prawns work perfectly with some freshly steamed rice or a nice cold glass of beer! Have fun making this simple recipe and I'm sure you will love them!
This recipe would work perfectly with various other seafood, instead of prawns you could also use lobster, clams, muscles or even crab. As for the prawns I tried to find the largest ones possible as I think the larger prawns would be best cooked in this way. This is a super simple go to recipe and I'm sure there's various other spices you could also add to the recipe to slightly tweak the flavour. Have fun and peace as always!