Cooking 101 – Shelling and Preparing Prawns

Cooking 101 - Shelling Fresh Prawns 012 edited re-sized

On marketing day, I chanced upon some fresh sea prawns, Ang Kar Hei 红脚虾 (little red leg prawn) at a good price. Irresistible, even though we are continuously cautioned against consuming it too often as it is touted as being a bad cholesterol ingredient. Here is an opinion that indicates other wise. Well, since you are reading this post you must have purchased your prawns so I know which side of the fence you are on!

Posted By Rob Bell On Saturday, November 30, 2013

Because of their many nutritional benefits, prawns are considered by a variety of health experts to be among the healthiest foods in the world. Prawns are a great source of high quality protein, and provide some of the most important vitamins and minerals that make up a healthy diet. They are surprisingly low in calories and are made up of extremely healthy cholesterol. In fact, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating prawns is part of a heart healthy diet. And because they are common throughout the world, there are healthy prawn dishes within almost every style or type of cuisine.

This question has been on my mind for a while – out of 1 kg of fresh prawns, how much of it is made up of prawn meat and how much is made up of its shells and heads? I usually purchase medium to large prawns (not the super large ones which you see being part of a menu at those touristy seafood restaurants).  In our local markets you will see a variety of types of prawns on sale such as Black, Tiger, Crystal, Grey and several others which I can’t name.

What’s the answer? I washed, dried and shelled the prawns. For Ang Kah Hei which has a thinner shell, 1 kg of fresh prawns yielded about 480 gm of head and shell and 520 gm of meat. An earlier occasion I had purchased a farmed prawn that is bred in the sea and it had yielded about 510 gm of head and shell and 490 gm of meat. Hence, it appears that as a rough rule of thumb, 1 kg of fresh prawns yields about 500 gm of meat.

Those prawn heads and shells will not go to waste. With just a little effort, they will yield a stock that will add so much umami to any Asian or Western dish. Freezes well for use on another day. Click here for my post called “Quick and Easy Prawn Stock”.

Photo above shows a bowl of cleaned prawns on the right and those needing further cleaning on the left.

ASSEMBLE a clean chopping board, a clean bowl, a sharp utility knife or a paring knife, disposable kitchen towels and some toothpicks.

Hold the prawn firmly and make a shallow slit in the centre of the prawn to expose the mid-gut intestines (“the guts”).

Use a toothpick to lift out the guts. Complete doing this to the whole lot of shelled prawns. You are now ready to use these according to your recipe of choice.

How long can I keep my fresh prawns in the fridge before cooking them?

They keep better if you shell and remove heads, leaving only the prawn meat. Decide  if  you will be using them in Chinese or Singaporean dish or a Western style meal. Place those shelled prawns in a clean container and either

(a) for a Chinese or Singaporean dish – season those peeled prawns with some fish/soy sauce, dash of pepper, a pinch of sugar, dash of rice wine  and sesame oil ( No ginger juice please as ginger juice is a tenderizer); or

(b) for a Western style or even an Indian dish, season with salt, white wine, dashes of ground pepper and oil (olive or cooking)

Once all that has been done, keep  the covered container in the chiller section of the fridge. Use them up in 3 days.






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