Both hot butter prawns and cuttlefish dishes are ones of our favorite side dishes that we order when we visit Chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka. I always wanted to make these correctly and I searched the net and tried several recipes but none turned out with the authentic taste. All the recipes were almost similar with very slight changes and I realized that I must be missing something really small and delicate in all the recipes I tried. Finally, thanks to one of my husband’s friends who owns a Chinese restaurant in Colombo, I was able to talk to a chef to learn all the do’s and don’ts when making the dish. So, at last I was able to make this right and I decided to share all I learned with you guys.
- 300g of raw prawns or shrimps (with shells) – Remember it is recommended to use small-to-medium sized prawns over larger ones. Because, the stiffer shells in larger prawns make the coating a bit difficult to stay held to the shells. Whereas much flexible shells of the smaller ones can hold the flour coating effectively.
- Few spring onions – each cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Longer the better.
- Salt to taste
- One egg white
- Corn flour – one cup or little more
- ½ tsp of very mild soy sauce- If using a strong soy sauce, dilute it 3:2 (Soy sauce: Water) and use ½ tsp of it
- ¼ tsp of ground black pepper or two pinches
- ½ tsps. of dried red chilli flakes – if you are not used to hot foods, use around ¼ tsp.
- Few whole dried red chilies (Optional)
- 1 to 1 ½ tbsp of butter(preferably, salted butter) – In fact, you can adjust this according to your expected texture, taste and your level of health consciousness. If you like that very crispiness, go for around 1 ½ tbsp. for 300g of medium sized prawns. However, if you want that oily and kind of unhealthier version add around 2-or-little-more tbsp but don’t exceed 3tbsp.
- Oil to deep fry
In a bowl, combine the prawns with little bit of salt and the ground black pepper. Here, it is important not to put lot of salt as the prawns would become saltier that it will suppress the buttery taste of the dish. So, usually, I start with ¼ tsp of salt at this point. After, let it aside for a minute or two. Also, I forgot, prawns should be in room temperature.
Then, bring in the egg white to the bowl and mix well with fingers until you feel that all the shrimps are well coated with it. Now, throw in some corn flour and with fingers gently roll and handle the shrimps until they are all well coated with the flour. As a tip, before you bring the flour in, you can wash off the eggs on your hand and dry them well so that it will be easy for you to coat the corn flour. This is in fact something I learned from practice and in restaurants they don’t waste their time to do that. So, it is up to you to decide on that.
Now, warm the oil to a medium-high heat level and start deep frying them. Remember, it is important to eyeball to see if the oil is too hot and that the shrimps are going to be over-fried. My suggestion is, soon after the shrimps are introduced to the oil, it is better to lower the heat to a medium level and let them be fried slowly. However, in restaurants, they simply fry in very high temperature in a very short time. There, they have experience and then simply take them out very quickly. As this is your first time I think it is better to follow my way of doing it. Now, fry them for about 3-4 minutes or until you see them turning to very-light yellow. Remember, they shouldn’t be brown. Well, you will know when you eye-ball whether or not they are fully cooked and crispy. If you really want to get it confirmed, you can take one out of the oil and see how the texture of it. So, now, keep the deep fried shrimps aside and let’s get to the next step.
Take a suitable pan or a pot and under low temperature start to melt the butter. Remember, it is important that you won’t overheat the butter at it can burn and turn darker where the taste will be altered. So, having that on your mind, stir the butter continuously until it will completely melt. Now, add the chili flakes and slowly increase the heat a little bit until it starts to fry the chilies well. This is one of the most important steps that you have to be careful about. Remember, chilies can get over-fried very easily and you have to handle heat delicately. Anyhow, do not fry the chillies more than 30 seconds. If you are at medium level of heat, just do it for 15 seconds or so. For your information, this is the stage that the butter will be getting the chili-taste. Remember, you have to be continuously stirring through out even when frying the chilies. It is the only way that you can save both butter and chilies from over-frying.
Now, instantly bring in the deep fried prawns and mix in the butter really fast and soon as the shrimps are coated with butter bring in the spring onions and optional whole-dried-red-chilies and lower the heat at the same time. Now, continued stir frying all for about 40 seconds or so. At this point you can taste and adjust salt to your taste if necessary
Note: If you are adding whole red chilies, you can also add them at the same time you add the chili flakes. I did not mention that as it can increase the hot-taste of the dish at an unpredictable intensity. So, when you make this first, I recommend you add it with spring onions. But, if you need the 100% effect of the dried whole red chilies as in restaurants, add them with the flakes.
Now, enjoy you work….