In this article, I want to share with you an easy Chinese prawn recipe (豉油王蝦/干煎虾碌). It is a typical Cantonese pan-fried shrimps recipe.
This Cantonese-style Chinese stir fry prawn recipe takes only twenty minutes to prepare and uses nothing but the most common ingredients in the home kitchen. Nevertheless, it has a very different flavor from the western style garlic butter shrimp, shrimp casserole, or other fried shrimp coated with batter.
Try this recipe, and you will forever remember the taste!
Perfectly pan-fried shrimps are slightly firm with a slight hint of a crunch. The meat is bouncy and juicy. This can only achieve if you use fresh shrimp and do not overcook them.
This pan-fried shrimps recipe has many variations (the term prawn is sometimes used for large shrimps). It can either be deep-fried or pan-fried before coating it with the sauce. The constitution of the coating sauce is the determinant factor, which results in shrimp with an entirely different flavor.
This recipe is typical for Chinese pan-fried shrimp, which allows you to make changes according to your palate.
Step one- Prepping the shrimp.
Large fresh prawns are ideal for Chinese prawn recipes, as they are more flavorful and meaty. Frozen shrimps are less flavorful and more suitable for dishes with many ingredients, such as shrimp fried rice.
You can let the shell intact or leave the tail section on for appearance. Shrimps with shells look gorgeous on the dining table, are more succulent, and capture all the natural flavor. I will leave the shell on in this Chinese stir-fry prawn recipe and only remove the heads and legs.
However, it is a bit messy when you eat them. You may consider unshelled shrimp for your everyday meal at home. However, unshelled shrimps lose flavor, just like cooking bone-on meat versus their boneless counterparts.
The flavor of pan-fried shrimp also differs between the shell and unshelled treatment. The unshelled shrimps are seared easily. On the contrary, shrimp with a shell can hold more sauce and be more succulent. You are the person to decide which version is best for you.
Here are the steps:
- Remove the head and leg of the shrimp with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors.
- Remove the telson, i.e., the last segment of the abdomen, which is very sharp.
- Make a shallow cut down the back of the prawns, from the front to the tail.
- Pull out the intestinal vein, which is just below the surface.
- Butterfly the shrimp by making the cut on the back deeper. This is done for appearance and to speed cooking by reducing the thickness.
- Rinse the shrimps under running water.
- Drain away the water with a colander or a wire mesh strainer.
Step two- Marinate the shrimp
You might have noticed that not all Chinese prawn recipes call for marination. Some people prefer to pat dry the shrimp with a kitchen towel and fry them shrimp without marinating them.
However, marinade helps infuse more flavor into the shrimp but ensures it is not too overwhelming. Keep in mind that we will coat the shrimp with the sauce later. That is why we do not include salt in the recipe.
The marinade is simple, with light soy sauce, cornflour, pepper, and sugar. The cornstarch helps to hold the remaining liquid of the shrimp so that t will not splatter too much while frying. Marinating for fifteen minutes should be sufficient. Most Chinese recipes use white pepper instead of black pepper, but I find it will not make any noticeable difference.
Step three- Make the sauce.
There are many ways to season pan-fried shrimp. The Cantonese method coats them with premium-grade soy sauce, whereas the main ingredients for the Sichuan style are salt and Sichuan peppercorns.
You can have prawns that taste entirely different by altering the composition of the sauce. Below is the explanation of each ingredient in the seasoning.
Note: Not all these items are used in the Chinese prawn recipe, but adding the rest can make the variation. All you need is to combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Please refer to the recipe below for the ingredients that I use.
Light soy sauce. Light soy sauce is the main seasoning ingredient in this soy sauce shrimp recipe. You can find it in nearly every Chinese pan-fried shrimp recipe. Most Asian prawn recipes prefer to use light rather than dark soy sauce because the color of dark soy sauce will overshadow the bright natural color of the shrimp. It is only used in a small amount for its caramelized flavor when necessary.
Premium grade soy sauce (also called first draw soy sauce / 头抽) is preferred as this dish heavily depends on the quality of soy sauce. Since soy sauce’s saltiness varies from brand to brand, you may need to adjust the amount mentioned in the Chinese prawn recipe.
Tomato ketchup. The taste will drastically change once you substitute half of the light soy sauce with tomato ketchup. This recipe is common in Hong Kong, called Stir Fried Ketchup Shrimps (茄汁蝦碌).
Worcestershire sauce. This sauce is not strictly Chinese but is widely used in Chinese restaurants. I have been staying in Malaysia and Hong Kong, both Commonwealth countries. Worcestershire sauce was introduced to these places during the settlement of the British. The locals find that it can enhance the taste of many traditional Chinese cuisines. I suggest adding a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of tomato ketchup. This magic pair of sauces are also used in the Japanese Hambagu, which I posted separately.
Shaoxing wine. Shaoxing wine is the standard wine for Chinese cooking. If you do not prefer alcohol, substitute it with chicken broth.
Sesame oil. Sesame oil has a strong flavor and is only used sparingly. It is very useful to mask the fishy smell of seafood.
Oyster sauce. You can add an equal amount of oyster sauce and light soy sauce to make it tastes different..
Step four- Pan-fried the shrimp
By now, it is just five minutes away from serving.
Scallions and minced garlic are used in Asian prawn recipes as aromatic. Add the garlic and scallions to the shrimps only when they are about 70% cooked since they are cooked quicker than the shrimps and burn if cooked over a long period. This method differs slightly from stir-frying in that garlic and scallion are sautéed first before adding the meat or vegetables.
As for the oil, you can choose between any vegetable oil with a neutral flavor or butter. Most Chinese restaurants use vegetable oil to pan-fry the shrimp.
Here are the steps for the Chinese prawn recipe:
- Pour two tablespoons of vegetable oil into the frying pan. Peanut oil is my preference, but any vegetable oil with a neutral flavor is also suitable.
- Add the shrimp to the pan while the oil is not too hot. Increase the heat gradually to medium. The shrimps stick to the pan if you add them to the hot oil.
- Sear the shrimp on both sides for about a minute over medium-high heat. (Larger prawns need 1 1/2 minutes). Do not move the shrimp around the pan while searing.
- Add minced garlic and scallion when the shrimps are about 70% cooked. Saute until it turns aromatic. By now, the shrimps should have cooked and turned opaque. Do not overcook the shrimp, as they will become tough and rubbery.
- Before you add the sauce, check if there is too much oil in the pan. If you think you do not want it too oily, Remove part of the oil before adding the sauce.
- Add the sauce to the shrimp. Stir-fried the shrimps until the sauce starts to dry out, forming a coating on the shrimps’ surface.
- Dish up and garnish with chopped scallions (also called spring onion or green onion) and white sesame seeds (optional). Serve the Chinese stir-fry prawns with white rice.
Note: You can add some bell peppers during stir-frying if you prefer it with some vegetables. Otherwise, add some chili pepper if you like spicy food.
Are shrimp and prawns the same thing?
Shrimp and prawns are often used interchangeably, and they are called 虾 in Chinese. Therefore, most Chinese would not consider them to be a different thing. The main difference between the two is the size and shape of their bodies. Shrimp are generally smaller and have a more slender, curved shape, while prawns are larger and have a more straight, elongated body. Because of that, I will use the words shrimp and prawns interchangeably in this article.
If you like this Asian cuisine, I have a few more Chinese prawn recipes for you.
- Honey garlic shrimp can be done in fifteen minutes. The meat is imbued with honey and soy with a splash of Shaoxing wine.
- The salt and pepper shrimp is deep-fried and is best for the occasional indulgence. It is ideal for any special dinner or gathering.
- Shrimp fried rice is a quick meal for everyone. This article also describes how to prepare fried rice in detail.
- Kung Pao shrimp. If you’re nice spicy food, try this Kung Pao shrimp. It is the spin-off recipe from the famous Kong Pao Chicken.
The Cantonese Style Pan-fried Shrimp Recipe
Cantonese Style Pan-fried Shrimps
This recipe is the tested method to pan-fried shrimps. Please also check the note section for variations.
Ingredients A- Shrimps and marinade
- 8 pieces large shrimps, (about 300g, with head and shell)
- 1 tablespoon premium light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Ingredients B- Aromatics
- 30 g scallions
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
Ingredients C- Sauce
- 1/2 tablespoons premium light soy sauce, , (reduce if prefer less salty)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Ingredients D- Others
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Remove the head and leg of the shrimps.
- Make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimps, pull out the intestinal vein.
- Butterfly the shrimp.
- Rinse the shrimps and drain away the water.
- Combine all the ingredients C to make the sauce
- Place the vegetable oil in the pan, Sear the shrimps on both sides until near cook.
- Add Ingredients C into the pan and stir-fry until aromatic.
- Add the sauce to the shrimp. Stir-fried the shrimps until the sauce forms a coating on the shrimps’ surface.
- Dish out. Garnish with more scallions and serve.
Variation: Substitute 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce with 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup plus 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
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Serving Size:8 shrimps
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 84Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 560mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 9g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 5/24/2019
Monday 22nd of February 2021
Delicious and simple dish. So glad I came across this. Thank you.
Monday 22nd of February 2021
You are welcome :)
Friday 4th of December 2020
Many thanks Mr Kwan, have made this several times! its simple and absolutely outstanding in taste.
Saturday 5th of December 2020
You are welcome. I am glad to know that you like the pan-fried shrimps.
Siti Hajar Omar
Friday 24th of July 2020
How to substitute Rice wine . My guest is allergic to alcohol
Saturday 25th of July 2020
Hi Siti, Please omit the wine to make it non-alcoholic. There is no substitute for it, but it will not drastically affect the taste. KP Kwan
Saturday 16th of May 2020
This turned out to be so delicious! As good as in the restaurant if not better. I'll be definitely making this quite often. Thanks for the recipe.
Sunday 17th of May 2020
Hi Jarmila, You are welcome. I am delighted that you enjoy the pan-fried shrimps. KP Kwan
Monday 5th of March 2018
Thanks sooo much! 3