Comfort Cooking

Bake prawns with salt or steam them

Wondering what to cook today? STFood Online Editor Hedy Khoo whips up easy eats to try at home

Salt-baked prawns (far left) and steamed prawns with dipping sauce.
Salt-baked prawns (left) and steamed prawns with dipping sauce.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Savour a seafood-themed meal with these two quick and fuss-free ways of cooking prawns.

Salt-baked prawns are easy to cook and can be served in the pan. Besides the prawns, the key ingredients are coarse salt and rice wine. The rice wine helps stave off fishy odours and add aroma and depth of flavour to the prawns.

Avoid using a non-stick pan for this dish as frying the coarse salt will wreak havoc on the non-stick coating.

To minimise damage to the frying pan, stir-fry the salt minimally. After use, wash the pan thoroughly with soap and rinse it well. Dry it and apply enough oil to coat the inside of it.

I have a soft spot for angka prawns, which are wild-caught prawns. For optimum taste and texture, use fresh prawns. If you plan to buy prawns and use them only later, try to get the freshest ones possible and freeze them immediately upon getting home.

To steam prawns, it is best to use a bamboo steamer so that the steaming liquid does not pool around the prawns. If you do not have one, use a small metal colander or make do with a metal rack in a deep heat-proof dish.

I have included a simple but tasty dipping sauce to go with the steamed prawns. The addition of chopped garlic and lime juice lifts the classic dip of light soya sauce and sliced chilli.

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• 8 large prawns (532g)

• 180g coarse salt

• 30ml Chinese rice wine (bai mi jiu)

Equipment: A frying pan with a cover.


1. In a pan, heat the coarse salt and fry over high heat for three minutes.

2. Remove one-third of the salt and set aside in a heat-proof dish, leaving the remaining salt in the pan.

3. Distribute the salt in the pan as evenly as possible.

4. Place the prawns in a layer over the salt in the pan, arranging them with tails in the centre of the pan.

5. Pour the rice wine over the prawns.

6. Add the salt that was removed earlier over the prawns.

7. Cover the pan and cook the prawns for 31/2 minutes. Switch off the heat and let the prawns continue to cook in residual heat for another 45 seconds. The prawns' shells should turn orange and the meat should be opaque when cooked.

8. Remove the cover and serve in pan.

Serves two



• 1 litre of water

• 8 medium-sized prawns (268g)

• 10g spring onion, cut into 5cm lengths

• 20g ginger, sliced

• 1/8 tsp salt

Equipment: Bamboo steamer with lid and a wok with a cover.


1. Add 1 litre of water to the wok and bring it to a boil.

2. Place the prawns in the bamboo steamer.

3. Place the spring onion and ginger slices over the prawns.

4. Sprinkle the salt over the prawns.

5. Cover the bamboo steamer with its lid. Place bamboo steamer in the wok. Cover and steam for two minutes. Switch off the fire and let the prawns cook in residual heat for another 30 seconds. Remove the bamboo steamer from the wok.

6. Serve immediately.

Serves two



• 30ml light soya sauce

• 3 green or red chilli padi, sliced

• 1 garlic clove, chopped

• 1 lime


1. Place light soya sauce in a small bowl. Add the chilli and garlic.

2. Use a strainer to squeeze the lime juice into the sauce.

3. Mix well and serve.

Serves two

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2021, with the headline 'Bake prawns with salt or steam them'. Subscribe