Asam Prawns


5-10 Minutes


5-8 Minutes




This recipe has long been a tradition in my family. I have learnt this from my mother. She makes this uber-delicious prawns at every Chinese New Year for our family reunion dinner. This is a nyonya-dish (nonya-dish). It is simple to make and requires little effort and ingredients. The prawns once cooked can be eaten immediately while they are still hot, or warm, or even when they are cold as a snack with a sambal belachan chilli dipping sauce. Perhaps with a nice cold beer!

Asam Prawns


  1.  Wash, devein and clean prawns

  2. Marinate the prawns and then pan fried

  3. Optional: make a sambal belachan dipping sauce

How to make

A. Preparation
Slit along the back of prawn to devein the prawn. Keep the shell intact with head and tail.
Place prawns in a large bowl. Add salt, sugar, pepper, and dark soy. Marinate for 5 minutes.
While waiting for prawns to marinate, prepare the tamarind pulp by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of water. Use both hands to squash the tamarind pulp with the water to make a tamarind paste. Remove any seeds. Add the tamarind paste to the prawns and marinate the prawns for another 10 minutes.
Wash and clean 2-3 lettuce leaves. Then place on a serving plate.

While waiting for prawns to marinade, prepare and make the sambal belachan chilli sauce.
Roughly chop all the chillies. Pound or blend the chopped chillies with 1/2 teaspoon of toasted belachan until it's smooth. Squeeze fresh lime juice when ready to serve.

B. Cooking
Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium to low heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the marinated prawns. Cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the prawns over to the other side. Add 1 tablespoon of water. Cover the lid again and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Remove the lid. Prawns should be cooked. If not, cover the lid again and cook for another 1 minute. The prawns should be charred and aromatic. Remove and place prawns on top of the lettuce leaves.
Add a bit of water to deglaze the pan for the aromatic sauce. Pour over the prawns.
Serve the prawns with a bit of sambal belachan chilli sauce. Add 1 or 2 slices of fresh limes on the side.



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  • 8 large prawns

  • 2-3 lettuce leaves for garnishing

  • 1 large knob of tamarind pulp

  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper

  • 1-2 tablespoons of water

Optional: sambal belachan

  • 8 fresh long red chillies

  • 1/2 teaspoon of toasted belachan (Malaysian shrimp paste)

  • 1 fresh lime