I don't know that it matters if you call them shrimp or prawns.
We perhaps refer to the smaller size as shrimps (as we did when the now-retro shrimp cocktail was on all the menus) and the larger as prawns.
Whatever, they are simply delicious when handled with care.
New Zealanders on the whole have been slow to appreciate the versatility of the low-fat, no-calorie crustaceans at home although they certainly do order them and enjoy them from the menu when dining out.
A true prawn will have 10 legs and can be microscopic in size to the giants found around the Mexican Gulf.
Fresh prawns are plentiful in many countries (sadly not readily available here) so we do tend to have to be satisfied with those out of the freezer.
They are sized by the number it takes to weigh a pound, eg for 20/30 sized prawns it will take 20 to 30 to weigh one pound in weight.
I do notice cooked prawns occasionally available on the supermarket shelves that have been frozen and thawed and, of course, are whole.
While probably cheaper to buy whole prawns either fresh, thawed or frozen it is certainly easier to buy the raw tails (referred to as green prawns) as they are simply easier to handle.
I guess most of us who have travelled to Australia will have enjoyed the fresh prawns at some stage.
I have always enjoyed trying the different species and am well convinced that the varieties from deep water (called Royal Red) are the sweetest of them all.
Today, we will look at a very tasty way of enjoying prawns cooked in a gluten-free batter served alongside a lightly spiced sambal or paste.
This is a great way of enjoying prawns - as the batter cooks crisp on the outside, the prawns will steam in the centre retaining their moistness and sweetness as they cook.
CHICKPEA BATTERED PRAWNS WITH COCONUT SAMBAL (4 portions)
20 good-sized green tiger or king prawns
150g chickpea flour (besan)
tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more if you like a little spice)
Seasoned cornflour (for passing the prawns through prior to battering)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
For the Sambal
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
8 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup desiccated coconut (combined with cup boiling water)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
cup freshly chopped coriander
Method: Devein the prawns by slipping the knife along the back of the prawn and removing the vein. Slice the prawn a little further along the back and open them out (these are called prawn cutlets).
For the Batter Place the chickpea flour in a bowl, add the baking soda, turmeric, cayenne pepper and a good sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Mix together then add 1 cup of water and mix well to form a thin batter.
For the Sambal Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion, cumin seed and curry leaves and stir over low heat for 8-10 minutes or until the onion has softened.
Add the coconut mixture and stir for 2 minutes or until the moisture has been absorbed but the mixture is still moist. It may require a little water to bring it to a suitable texture.
Add the remaining ingredients and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To complete the dish Heat some rice bran or peanut oil in a wok or deep saucepan and heat until almost smoking.
Dust the prawns in seasoned cornflour and shake away any excess.
Holding the tails, dip the prawns into the batter and deep-fry until golden brown then drain on absorbent paper. Do in small batches so not to destroy the heat in the oil too quickly.
Serve the prawns immediately with your favourite stir-fry vegie and the sambal.
Graham Hawkes runs Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times