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Recipe: Fried Garlic Prawns


Prawns are a fast and convenient choice of protein for the busy cook. Straight freezer, they can defrost quickly and be pan-seared to make a delicious dinner course.

Celia Hay prawns

Prawns can be confusing. Firstly, they are referred to as crustaceans and are also sold by size -shrimps are small and prawns are larger. There are both fresh water and marine varieties.  Most prawns are imported frozen into NZ although there is growing local supply. So when you see “fresh” prawns they have generally been defrosted. Fresh prawns in many cases appear green or grey and it is only when cooked, that the colour changes to what we recognise as “pink” prawns. If you buy prawns or scrimps that are pink, this means that they have been cooked.

Then, there are a series of questions to ask:

  • Do you cook them in their shells or peel before cooking? 
  • Do you remove the head and just cook the tail? 
  • Do you remove the vein (intestinal tract) or black line that runs down the back?

You can use prawns for the same recipe whether they are peeled or deveined. Many people believe that cooking prawns with the shell will enhance the flavour of the broth and result in more succulent prawn meat. The downside is that they are a bit messier to eat.  To peel the prawns, you just need to wriggle them a little and ease off the shell, piece by piece. 

There is not big deal about cooking prawns with the head on – it is more a cultural thing about people not wanting to see the eyes! The head pulls off easily if you twist it.  The tip of the tail can be removed in the same way. 

The prawn is de-veined or has the intestinal tract removed as many consider it the prawn more attractive without the black line. It also removes the prawns stomach waste so that you do not need to eat it! See below for the method.

Like all seafood, prawns should be eaten as soon as possible and not left in the refrigerator for days. If they smell off when you come to cook them, your only choice is to throw them out!  

Fried in garlic and paired with home-made mayo showcases these crustaceans at their best.


Serves 2


Classic mayonnaise


  • Peel the prawns.
  • Heat a frypan, add in the oil.
  • Fry the prawns until they begin to change colour. Turn.
  • Add in the garlic.
  • Remove from the heat. Serve on a warmed plate with aioli sauce.

To peel a prawn

  • Hold the body and twist off the head.
  • Pull back the legs removing the centre section of the shell in the same motion. Peel back the shell.
  • Squeeze the tail segment and gently pull to remove the tail if required. 

To de-vein

  • Follow step 1 and 2. 
  • With a sharp knife, make an incision along the back of the prawn through the vein. 
  • Pull out the vein. 
  • The prawn is now ready to sauté, stir fry, BBQ or poach.

Classic mayonnaise

  • Place the yolk in a clean bowl.
  • Using a whisk add the salt and the lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Then with your oil in a jug start pouring it in drop by drop, whisking constantly.
  • Once the emulsion has been started you can start to add the oil in a steady thin stream, whisking constantly as you go.
  • When the sauce is thick, taste and adjust the seasoning and flavourings. To thin, whisk in a little warm water or more vinegar.
  • To make aioli, stir through 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped. 


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Celia Hay

Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Education (Distinction) and MBA Master of Business Administration from the University of Canterbury.

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The School

Founded by Celia Hay, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opened its first campus in Christchurch in 1995.

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