Braised Prawn/Shrimp (油闷大虾 You Men Da Xia）
November 21, 2020
Braised Prawn (油焖大虾 You Men Da Xia) is another famous dish from China’s Shangdong province, where the dishes are known as Lu cuisine (鲁菜). Just like Juicy Fried Tofu, the Chinese name for Braised Prawn, “You Men” (油焖), also refers to a specific cooking technique in which the main ingredient is first stir fried or deep fried then braised with a flavorful sauce for a short time under medium or low heat.
This is a fantastic dish for holidays and dinner parties (I plan to serve it during Thanksgiving). The sauce used to braise the prawns adds both savory and sweetness to the already fragrant prawns, making them even more delicious and juicy.
When selecting prawns or shrimp for this recipe, make sure to get the head-on ones even if you do not intend to eat the head part. As I mentioned in a previous shrimp post, Steamed Garlic Butterfly Shrimp/Prawns with Vermicelli, the head of the prawn/shrimp is the most flavorful part of prawn/shrimp for many people. It contains the hepatopancreas and releases this sweet and juicy red “prawn/shrimp oil” when cooked. Without this red prawn/shrimp oil, this Braised Prawn dish becomes significantly less flavorful.
For many people (including myself), cleaning the prawn/shrimp is the most annoying part of preparing shrimp. But for this recipe, you only need one step to clean the shrimp head. There is no cutting off the rostrum (the sharp pointy part on prawn/shrimp’s head) and no inserting a toothpick to take out the stomach (yes, prawn/shrimp’s stomach is located on the head).
So how do you clean the prawn/shrimp’s head with just one single step? Simply use kitchen scissors to make a slanted cut on the head to remove most of the head, including the stomach, leaving only the orange part (the hepatopancreas) intact. This way, the hepatopancreas still releases the bright red oil to add yummy flavor to the whole dish.
Timing is quite important for this recipe since it is done in a short amount of time. So make sure you have all the ingredients prepared and ready by the stove before cooking.
Tools: Kitchen Scissors
Gluten Free, Low Carb
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 – 4 people
- ~1 lb (or 450g) of head-on prawn or large shrimp1
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 green onions
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine or rice wine
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce2
- 1 tablespoon water
- Gather all the ingredients. Cut the green onions into long slices and mince the ginger then set aside. Mix the 2 teaspoons of sugar, the 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, and the 1 tablespoon of water then side aside.
- Clean the prawn/shrimp. Wash the prawn/shrimp gently and pat them dry with a kitchen paper towel. Use kitchen scissors to remove the shrimp’s antenna and legs. Then make a slanted cut to remove majority of the head, except the hepatopancreas, which is the orange/tan color inside the head (see pictures). If after making the cut, there is still some small black parts remaining in the head (the black part is the stomach, which is connected to the vein all the way to the tail), use a toothpick to pluck it out. Then insert a toothpick into the gap between 2nd and 3rd tail section from the end to remove the prawn/shrimp’s vein.
- Heat a large skillet or wok under medium-high heat. When the pan is getting hot, add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and then immediately add the prawn/shrimp. Flip after about 30 seconds or when the color has turned pink. Once both sides are pink, toss and stir the prawn/shrimp a few times to help release the”red oil” from the head.
- Once “red oil” is present, add the 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine or rice wine. Then add the sliced green onions and minced ginger, tossing and stirring to combine everything (about 30 seconds). At this time, turn the heat to medium-low. Add the sauce prepared in step 1 (2 Tsp of sugar, 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp of water) and keep flipping and tossing until the sauce has become thick, giving a glossy appearance to the prawn/shrimp. Turn off the heat and serve the shrimp in a large plate.
- Look for fresh and clean prawn/shrimp. Fresh shrimp do not have a fishy smell and their shells feel hard when touched.
- If you are gluten sensitive, make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari as most soy sauces these days by default contain gluten.