Sweet Chilli Lime Prawns

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While the majority of you, my readers, are based in the northern hemisphere and have been enjoying your turkeys and goose and things like being snowed in and spending nights in front of crackling fireplaces, we in the southern hemisphere have, for most of the past week, had to endure torrential rain that has led to scenes like garbage bins floating down the middle of roads as impromptu driving hazards.

Not that the rain isn’t needed, mind you. Particularly in my home state, the drought situation has been getting so bad that the price of EVERYTHING has continuously increased this year, and even the half week of torrential rain has put a sniff of a dent in the dropping dams. However, despite our need of rain, people all over the state were holding their breaths and waiting to see whether the weather forecasters had got it right, and whether Christmas Day would indeed be bright and sunny.

Well, warm it was not, but it was definitely sunny and clear, and meant that we could proceed with our traditional bbq Christmas meal. You see, by this time of year, its usually so stinking hot that nobody in their right mind is particularly enthused about having the oven on for hours at a time, so while roasts are still popular, they are usually a part of a bigger barbeque feast, which is the way that we usually spend the day.

Whilst my culinarily-incompetent father usually has trouble making anything more complicated than a pot of instant noodles, on barbeque days he proudly wields his giant tongs and lords over his dominion, either barefoot or with slipper-shod feet and either a stubby (beer can) or a cigarette in hand. Unfortunately, as he *is* somewhat mystified by the art of cooking, this usually means that my brother (being slightly more competent due to being fairly well trained by my mother and I) is usually firmly by his side, ‘helping’ him to not burn the various meats to completely charred crisps.

Alas, my brother could not save the kilo of chicken wings which left the kitchen first, of which only half could be salvaged as the other half were burnt beyond recognition. Seeing how those turned out, I sternly took the tray of prawns that I had laboured over the night before and told the lads that I’d be doing these myself.

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DID YOU KNOW:

Did you know that while the words ‘shrimp’ and ‘prawn’ are used interchangeably, they are actually different creatures?

Physically they look very similar but there is one sure way to tell them apart. In shrimps or carideans the side plate of the second segment of the abdomen overlaps the segments in front and behind. Prawns, most of which belong to the family Penaeidae of the group Dendrobranchiata, have all the abdominal side plates overlapping tile-like from the front. A more fundamental difference but one impossible to appreciate in a single specimen is that female prawns do not brood eggs but shed them into the currents where they develop independently.

It would therefore make sense to call all member s of the Penaeidae “prawns” and members of the Caridean “shrimps” and this is what most Australians do. King prawns and banana prawns are names understood in this continent for penaeids sold frozen at the markets. The tiny shrimps bought in cans or froz en are imported carideans. Confusion arises when we hear Americans refer to prawns as “shrimp”.

Museum Victoria

As part of the Christmas meal, there’s always some prawns but unfortunately, my parents usually massacre them by overboiling them and serving them with a ketchup/mayo mix in some bastardized prawn cocktail. Seeing the gorgeous specimens they’d picked up at the markets for this year’s feast, I told my mother that this year we’d be trying something different, and that their prawn cocktail would not be featured at this year’s feast.

My mother baulked at the idea of doing without this constant, and in turn asked me what I had planned. To be honest, I hadn’t a clue, but I knew it had to be simple and work with Asian flavours otherwise my family may refuse to eat them, which would be a disaster (2kg of prawns is a LOT not to be eaten!). I decided to think about it as I sat in front of the telly, removing the shells and veins by myself, but by the end of the undertaking I still had not a clue. In the hopes that one of my fellow food bloggers might be on MSN and be able to offer some ideas, I hopped online (after washing my prawny fingers, of course!). Thankfully, I found Linda, a fellow Asian Melbourne-based food blogger (Butter Sugar Flour – I suggest you check it out) floating about and discussed my dilemma with her:

Linda – if your hands smell like prawns, aren’t you stinking up your keyboard too? (lol, just joking)

Ellie – LOL! Probably, but I can’t notice anything beyond my fingers at this point so I’ll worry about it later :P I’ve peeled them so I can marinate them, but I’m at a loss for what the marinade should be…garlic, chilli, that’s as far as I’ve gotten

Linda – garlic chilli lemon juice is always a winner, but you got no citrus girl!

Ellie - I got limes, but if its a citrus marinade then I’d have to do it tomorrow else it’d start cooking the prawns

Linda – got any parsely around? Throw that in

Ellie - nah, no parsley, might just go ginger and sugar and call it a day! Alright, I’m off to have a smoke and tackle the freakin prawns~

I took off outside and pondered my dilemma some more as I enjoyed my one and only cancer stick of the day. Ginger and sugar was indeed a good combo, but I didn’t think it would do a good job marinating without some liquid to carry the flavours. Fish sauce? Nah, I’m working with prawns, and the overwhelming flavour would probably mess with the flavour of the prawns. I knew I had a few limes bouncing around the chiller box in the fridge, and used those as a basis for my experiment, tasting the final product with some nervousness before pouring the lot over the prawns and bidding them goodnight in my fridge.

The next day, I worridly waited till the moment that I could finally cook the little beasties, and as soon as the first was done, I plucked off the head and took a bite. And smiled. And offered it to my mother.

Will these ever replace my parents fondness for prawn cocktails? I doubt it, but my family agrees that these prawns have earned their place at the feast for next year’s Christmas, so I guess that’s a success!

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Sweet Chilli Lime Prawns

Ingredients
1kg large prawns (we had tiger prawns)
Juice and zest of 2 limes
1 – 1.5 cups brown sugar
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1-2 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp dried coriander powder

1. Soak some bamboo skewers overnight, making sure you have one for each prawn.

2. Remove the shells from the prawns, leaving the heads and tails intact. Remove the tract from the back by cutting a small slit with a knife and fishing it out with a toothpick and then give the prawns a quick rinse and shake dry.

3. Mix together all the other ingredients in a bowl and alter to taste. Pack the prawns into a large casserole dish and carefully pour the marinade over the top. Leave for about 2-3 hours, giving the prawns a toss every hour to make sure they’re all getting the chance to be marinated.

4. Just before cooking, thread each prawn onto a skewer by holding it firmly in hand, inserting the skewer from between the tail fins and up the body up into the head.

5. Fire up the barbeque (or grill) and just before cooking, give them a light brush with some melted butter to stop them sticking. Grill them for no more than 2-3 minutes each side, removing them to a plate once they lose their opaque colour and are nice and fragrant.

6. Serve with some steamed rice and a simple citrussy salad and enjoy!

[tags]shrimp, prawns, barbeque, recipes, Asian[/tags]

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