Cooking 101 – Choosing and Cleaning Prawns

Cooking 101 - Prawns 004 edited re-sized

How do you tell if the prawn is fresh? Their heads tell the tale.  Once the prawn dies, the digestive enzymes that are located in the head will start to eat into the flesh in the tail.  As a result, the prawn head becomes loose.

It takes just  a few snips with a pair of kitchen scissors to trim off all those parts of the prawn which are likely to cut your fingers, lips and tongue when you dive into a fragrant dish of Fried Assam Prawns or that steamy bowl of  Hokkien Prawn Noodles. The advantage of cooking prawns with shells on, viz, they retain their juiciness better and the shells add more flavour to the soup or the sauce.

Your recipe may require you to cook the prawns with shell on or it may require you to shell the prawn. In either case, watch out for these 2 “can be nasty”  ends of the prawns – the rostrum at the head end of the prawn and the telson at the tail end. This post explains what you need to do up to the stage of cooking the prawns with shell on or packing for freezing for later us.

STEP 1. A pair of Kitchen scissors at work on the prawn head. Cut off that pointed end of the head removing the eyes, rostrum and all parts that poke. For easy clean-up, roll on end of a plastic bag to give it structure so that it is stiff and “stands”. Hold the prawn over the plastic bag and trim off that “can be nasty” end of the head.

STEP 2. Using the scissors, continue with trimming off the pereopods and the pleopods.

STEP 3. Please don’t forget the tail end. The telson is pointed and sharp. It can also cause painful and deep cuts.

STEP 4. Wash and drain your prawns in colander. Leave them for about 10 mins to drain well.

STEP 5. Personally, I like to take on more step. I use a double-fold piece of muslin and pat the drained prawns dry before packing them away in a box for the freezer.

You might find these other posts helpful.

  • “Going Marketing and Sorting Purchases”. Click here to read it.
  • “Shelling and Preparing Prawns”. Click here to read it.






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