Mom’s Sweet and Savoury Prawns

This is one of the first stir-fries I learned to make.

I cooked this for the first time while I was studying abroad for my junior (3rd) year of uni in Cambridge. I had a shaky first term there – culture shock, loneliness, homesickness. It was very different to studying at my home university, Brown, where I had many close friends and where there was a lot more contact time with professors and peers. It didn’t help that I found England cold and lacking in good food – while the college I was in did very nice formal meals at grand hall, I quickly tired of the standard buttery fare.

So it was with great desperation that turned me to cooking. I called up my mom one day out of desperation and asked for her recipes.

“What recipes do you want?” (mom, translated)

“Er, anything, whatever we eat at home usually.”

“Ok… …”

“Something easy for me to not mess up?”

“Hmm… how about the prawns with ketchup? There’s nothing to it: just make sure you use lots of garlic – cook them until they’re golden. Oh and mix ketchup and oyster sauce together for the sauce. That’s it!”

And that really is it. Sweet, salty, tangy – the ketchup and oyster sauce marries very well. Throw in some onions and spring onions for some texture, yum. Apologies to my friends who don’t like prawns – but to those who do, I heartily recommend this easy stir-fry :).

Mom’s Sweet and Savoury Prawns

A little oyster sauce and ketchup going a long way in this dish.

150 grams raw prawns
1/2 medium yellow onion
3 stalks of spring onion, sliced diagonally into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic
1.5 tablespoons oyster sauce
1.5 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
black pepper to taste

1. Heat wok on medium heat. When pan is hot, add oil.
2. Fry garlic and yellow onion until fragrant.
3. Tip prawns into wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add oyster sauce and ketchup.
4. Crack black pepper over prawn. Stir fry for another 1 1/2 minutes. Don’t overcook the prawns! You’ll know when they’re done when they turn from a translucent grey to a stripey orange and white colour.
5. Add spring onion. Might want to add a few drops of hot water at this point if the sauce is drying up.
6. When spring onion is heated through, switch off heat and serve immediately with steamed white rice.

Cooking and eating this dish still brings me back to my old room in college. I remember sitting huddled at my desk in a blanket, freezing (I stayed in the oldest part of college , which was founded in 1347), homesick and lonely, but feeling such warmth from a plate of humble stir-fry. It made me feel safe. It made me feel that I could at least change one thing about my everyday life, and that was the food.

Thankfully, things quickly got better once I found friends. Or in fact, they found me – that’s a whole other story, involving pie and food poisoning (!). But all turned out quite well for me in the end at Cambridge. I’m glad I stayed on for the whole year because if I hadn’t, I would’ve never got into interested in cooking, never would have met such wonderful friends, and never would have met my boyfriend  – and that really is another story :).


8 thoughts on “Mom’s Sweet and Savoury Prawns

  1. Vordoo says:

    I’ve never tried this one before, might as well give it a try when I could. It looks tasty! 🙂
    I love how food can bring back such lovely memories, it’s such a heart-warming thing cooking can do 🙂
    speaking of using ketchup in food, my dad also use ketchup and Maggie sauce when he made a quick scramble egg. Those two sauce add up nice colour and make a scramble egg more flavorful

    • Sheila says:

      Ohhh I love ketchup and egg! I don’t have Maggie sauce though but I should really try it sometime because I see that it features in quite a few of your recipes :).

      • Vordoo says:

        Maggie is one of a very common kitchen-aids in Thai kitchen, i’d say 🙂 It is salty but the scent and flavor of it is different from soy sauce or kikoman sauce though. It’s pretty unique and I like Maggie sauce to go with 5 mins egg or other egg dishes too 😀

      • Sheila says:

        I’m definitely going to pick up a bottle then the next time I’m in an Asian-foods store. Your recipe for grilled lemongrass chicken is one of the recipes I’ve bookmarked from months back when you first wrote the post actually!

      • Vordoo says:

        I’ve been cooking this grilled lemongrass chicken for over 10 times now, hehe, it’s everyone’s favorite 🙂 Oh, make sure you put more lemongrass than ‘the three musketeers’ though, whist marinating for a better scent 🙂 If you plan to marinate it for more than 6 hours then don’t use too much soy sauce+maggie but if you’re only have less than 5 hours, make it more intense and it’ll turn out exact the same as long marinade 🙂

      • Sheila says:

        Cool thanks for the advice! Actually the other day your recipe inspired me to make lemongrass pork chops – I broiled them in the oven after marinating it with lemongrass, garlic, soy sauce, mirin and sugar. It was really yummy. But perhaps Maggi sauce will make it even better!

      • Vordoo says:

        That’s wonderful to hear!! 🙂 next time use Maggi too then? 🙂
        I’m about to upload my new experimental dish I cooked today using cumin as a main ingredient

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