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Chilli Prawns

The marvelous thing about living in the house of a great cook is you get delicious meals 365 days (obviously). However the danger is that you risk being spoiled for life regarding food - Asian food in my case - with the permanent tendency of comparing the dishes you eat outside to those at home. Now, who's this great chef I'm talking about? No, no, it's not Pierre - well he is a great chef in certain domain... which I won't tell you.:-p Yes, the great chef of wok: my dear old mom. My friends are so used to hearing me complaining about the plate of chicken curry or chili prawns that I'm eating at the hawker center (aka Singaporean food court) being not as good as my mom's. They would their shake their head and smile... until I invited them over for lunch or dinner for some chili crabs or pineapple prawns. Even till today, whenever we talk about food, they will reminisce about my mom's cooking and will always ask me when am I going to invite them over for lunch again:-p Some of them even offer to buy and pay for the groceries and food if my mom can whip up those delicious prawns and crabs for them again.:-D

I have to admit that I have taken my mom' cooking for granted while I was living with her. To me, from a child's point of view, my mom will live forever (silly thinking isn't it) and she's never old. It's only in my late 20s that I looked at my mom closely one day and realized suddenly that she isn't getting any younger, and if I don't spend quality time with her, one day she might not be there anymore and I'll regret it for the rest of my life. It was then that I got to really appreciate every little things she does for me. My sis and I tried to learn cooking from her and to relieve her of that job so that she can relax and enjoy her old age... but my mom is stubborn: it's her kitchen and she kicks us out of it whenever we try to help her. She always says that we are giving her more work to do (messing up her kitchen) than helping and it would take her twice as long to cook than usual with us around.

But now that I'm living abroad with my own family, I have a chance to try out her recipe in my own kitchen;-) Trying to cook my mom's recipes is not that easy because she's from the "old school" and takes no measurement at all. And being two continents apart doesn't help either, as 'about the size of the small bowl we have in the kitchen' isn't a very helpful information. Over time I still got my way around some recipes, such as the following which I did for my Peruvian and French friends this week.

Chilli Prawns
  • 1 kg prawns (peeled, left with tail)
  • light soya sauce


  • 330 g shallots or onions (approximately)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 5 stalks lemon grass (use only the white part, sliced)
  • 2 pieces candle nuts
  • 4 slices galangal
  • 2 to 3 tbsp fish curry powder
  • sugar, salt or light soya sauce
Mom's chili prawns ingredients
  1. Paste: Grind/pound the shallots, garlic, lemon grass, galangal and candle nuts together to a fine paste. Mix the paste with the curry powder and set aside.
  2. Heat the wok over a high flame until very hot. Add oil. Stir-fry the paste for about a minute. Lower the flame, then fry for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the prawns and stir-fry for a minute.
  4. Sprinkle a bit of water, season it with a bit of sugar and light soya sauce or salt (to your taste) and stir it now and then till prawns are cooked.
  5. Serve it hot with steamed rice.
Mom's chili prawns paste
The Conclusion

Mmm...yummy... almost as good as my mom's (that's my own opinion:-p) Pierre loves it so did my friends ... they were quite amazed by the flavour of it, slightly bitter, sweet and spicy at the same time.


Candlenut can be found in Southeast-Asian markets. You can substitute it with macadamia nuts or Brazil nuts (these are three times as large as candlenuts, so use fewer) or raw cashews (two cashews for every candlenut) or blanched almonds (two almonds for every candlenut).

If you don't have fish curry powder, you can just simply add chili powder (in lesser quantity of course) or grind dried chilis (deseed) together with the paste, it still taste delicious. Or you can add any curry powder you have in your pantry and add in some paprika for the red colour.

Mom's chili prawns
#1, by Anh (09/15/2007)

This is such a lovely dish! I will be making this soon since it looks just tooooo good.

#2, by Little Corner of Mine (09/15/2007)

Oh man, this looks do darn good and spicy!

#3, by tyree white (09/16/2007)

I can taste them from here. tyree white

#4, by amrita (09/16/2007)

i think my grandmother makes something like this!:-D

#5, by indosungod (09/16/2007)

Pamela, I would do anything to be invited:-) Chili Prawns looks so delicious. Candle Nuts? is there a substitute and will using ginger for galangal be the same?

#6, by Cynthia (09/16/2007)

Pamela, I do understand what you mean. Actually, a very good friend of mine who's tasked with tasting everything I cook complains that I spoil her and that she is always comparing other people's food with mine. Bless her heart. What a nice thing to say.

Our moms are great cooks.

Don't laugh, I actually touched my computer screen when I saw your chili prawns (lol)

#7, by Judy (09/16/2007)

I want this dish! I must go and get some prawns and galangal the next time I am in Croydon!:-)

#8, by indosungod (09/16/2007)

Pamela, I came back to admire the Chilli prawns again and noticed your Notes:-)

#9, by Andy (09/17/2007)

These looks so good! That paste is pure heaven to me.

#10, by Malaysian Delicacies (09/17/2007)

Hi there,
Thx for dropping by. Just by looking at the ingredients used for the chilli prawns I know that its a fingerlicking good recipe.

#11, by Kelly Mahoney (09/17/2007)

Looks delicious. My dad feels the same way about going to restaurants. He'd much rather have meatloaf at home than some fancy dish at a local eatery.

#12, by Tummythoz (09/17/2007)

The bit about being chased out of the kitchen for messing up happened to me too. But in my case, it's most probebly true. =)

#13, by Eddie Tan (09/17/2007)

Just want to say thank you for leaving your kind wishes on my blog. Really appreciate it. I must say that I will surely try out some of your interesting recipes.

#14, by Keropokman (09/17/2007)

I totally agree with you. When we eat things outside, we sometimes says, ee yer, like that also can sell. Mummy makes better ones.

Now when we live away from home, when mum visits, guess what?!! she cooks for us, then we deep freeze it eat them slowly! we have frozen bak chang, mum's fruit cakes etc in our freezer!

Yes, we even know how to thaw frozen food nicely and still get the same great taste as it was cooked! haha..

your cili prawns no petai?:-p

#15, by wokandspoon (09/17/2007)

I know what you mean about taking your mum's food for granted when you were living there! I'm the same as well and now I get cravings for things that she cooks! Thanks for sharing your mum's chilli prawn recipe - that really looks fantastic!

#16, by valentinA (09/17/2007)

No doubt about this, it must taste so good! Especially if it's Mom's recipe!

#17, by lynn (09/17/2007)

How blessed you are to have grown up with such wonderful food. Now you have the wonderful challenge of living up to her heritage, recreating those delicious meals, and passing them along to your family.

It is much easier to do it all yourself, but then your kids can't learn.

#18, by tigerfish (09/17/2007)

My mum seldom cooks so I can't comment on her cooking but I do know what moms who can cook, do so very well and it's always seem easy job for them. Can I share some of your prawns? I was planning to cook something similar this week, you know.:-D

#19, by Wandering Chopsticks (09/17/2007)

I just saw candlenuts in the grocery store the other day and was trying to figure out whether to buy them b/c I didn't have any recipes.:-)

#20, by Carol (09/18/2007)

Hey Ninja! You've got my favourite spices and seafood in this recipe! YUMMY!

#21, by Kevin (09/18/2007)

Another great looking prawn dish! I have never heard of candle nuts or galangal. I will have to see if I can find them.

#22, by Amy (09/19/2007)

Oooo that looks so good! Big succulent prawns on a heaping bowl of rice is all I need.:-)

#23, by The Cooking Ninja (09/21/2007)

@Cythnia: Yes they are indeed. You are so cute.:-)

@Keropokman: Yes my mom does that too...in my case, she frozes some changs just for me when I'm home during summer.:-) I got to learn how to make chang here. Cannot find any petai here.

@lynn: Yes, my sis and I are trying to note down every single recipe of my mom.:-) Hope that we can recreate it with the exact taste. Will make a great recipe book to pass down to generations. hehehe...that's exactly what my MIL said.

@Tigerfish: Definitely you can.

@Wandering Chopsticks: Candlenuts are used in a lot of Singapore, Malaysian and Indonesian cooking. This is used to thicken the sauce.

#24, by miche (09/24/2007)

your sambal prawn recipe is so different then mine but it does look good. i still can't cook well coz my mom is similar to urs! kick me out of the kitchen all the time for the same reason as urs!:-(

#25, by The Cooking Ninja (09/24/2007)

@miche: I understand that there are many different ways of cooking sambal prawns. Some add the belachan while others don't ... each recipe differs slightly from one and another but all taste delicious.:-)

#26, by kellypea (10/03/2007)

It's 7:30 am here, and I'm dying for some of these. Have you ever tried the chili paste with chicken or other meat to see what it's like? Great photos.

#27, by The Cooking Ninja (10/03/2007)

@kellypea: I have used the same paste to make Assam Fish or Fish in tamarind sauce. I haven't tried it with chicken. I think for the chicken, I would need to add some other spices to perk it up.

#28, by Ain alawiya (06/19/2010)

Babe.. Tis is sooo nice!! Does it taste like sambal tumis udang? Anyway, I bet this is yummy if eaten w nasi lemak (aka coconut rice) or even good with prata (aka Asian pancake).. Yummy! Will definitely try this !

#29, by _jenn (03/11/2011)

it luks so hot!im sure ilocanos gonna love it...i feel lyk eating it on a cold summer nyt!nyse one!.yummy ....