Crispy zi char-style deep-fried prawn fritters

Mr Roland Lim's deep-fried prawn fritters are usually snapped up in a jiffy at gatherings

Remote video URL

Growing up, Mr Roland Lim knew that he was in for a treat whenever his father took over the kitchen at home.

His late father, who was a fishmonger by day and a captain at the now-defunct Kheng Luck Seafood restaurant in Upper East Coast Road by night, whipped up scrumptious feasts for his family on his days off - once or twice a month.

He got cooking ideas from his chef-friends and experimented with the recipes in the kitchen.

Some of the dishes he made included pomegranate chicken - deep-fried dumplings stuffed with chopped chicken, mushrooms and chestnut. There is no pomegranate in the dumplings - the name refers to how the cubed stuffing ingredients resemble pomegranate arils.

His father's other specialities included breaded squid balls the size of tennis balls and claypot fish head with tofu.

Mr Lim, 46, who is an assistant vice-president in an audio equipment company, has fond memories of those family dinners.

Mr Roland Lim picked up the recipe for prawn fritters from his late father. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

"My father was so happy to see the family eat together," he says. "Like in restaurants, he served the food dish-by-dish so that we could enjoy it hot off the stove."

Those cooking sessions also fired up his interest in cooking, as he and his older brother were tasked to chop the ingredients and try their hand at stir-frying.

Along the way, Mr Lim also picked up recipes from his father, including deep-fried prawn fritters.



    250g self-rising flour
    2 Tbs rice flour
    1 Tbs margarine at room temperature
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp baking soda
    2 tsp monosodium glutamate (MSG) (optional)
    White pepper to taste
    250ml water
    15 prawns (about 700g), shelled except for the tail and de-veined
    1/2 tsp sugar
    750ml peanut oil
    5 Tbs Japanese mayonnaise
    1 tsp wasabi
    1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice


    1. In a mixing bowl, combine the self-rising flour, rice flour, margarine, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of baking soda, MSG (if using) and white pepper to taste. Pour in the water in three additions, mixing with a fork after each addition until the batter is smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

    2. Place the prawns in another mixing bowl, add the remaining salt and baking soda, and the sugar. Mix well and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.

    3. Remove the prawns and batter from the refrigerator. Set a wok over high heat and heat the peanut oil for eight to 10 minutes. To check if the oil is hot enough, insert a pair of long wooden chopsticks into the oil. If the oil bubbles around it, it is hot enough.

    4. Holding the tail, coat each prawn evenly in the batter (below) and place it gently in the wok. Cook for 10 to 15 seconds on each side, until the fritters turn golden brown. Cook no more than five prawns at a time.

    5. As they are cooked, remove the fritters from the wok and place them on a plate lined with kitchen towels to soak up the excess oil.

    6. Mix the mayonnaise, wasabi and lemon juice in a bowl. Serve the prawn fritters with the sauce.

    Serves five

The golden brown parcels get snapped up fast at gatherings with family and friends, especially during Chinese New Year celebrations, when he finds himself frying 4 to 5kg of prawns at one go.

"I do not get the chance to plate the prawn fritters nicely," he says with a chuckle. "A steady stream of people would come in the kitchen and eat them as soon as they are taken out of the wok."

How does he make the fritters so crispy?

His secret is adding rice flour to the batter, which helps it stay crisp and firm longer. He also adds margarine to the batter, so that it puffs up when fried.

Refrigerating the batter is also crucial in making the fritters crisp, as the batter thickens and clings onto the prawns.

For an "old-school taste", he adds a dash of monosodium glutamate to the batter.

Mr Lim also uses the versatile batter to deep-fry fish, onions, mushrooms and kailan.

The prawns are springy and full of bite, the result of rubbing them with baking soda.

Unlike during his childhood days, when he had to compete with his older brother and younger sister to "grab as many prawn fritters as I can", he now has the time to savour them by dipping them in a blend of Japanese mayonnaise, lemon juice and wasabi.

Prawn fritters is one of more than 60 recipes that are featured on Spice N' Pans, a five-month-old YouTube video channel that he and his wife, Ms Jamie Woon, 41, started.

On weekends, the couple, who have no children, produce cooking demonstration videos at home, featuring Chinese dishes such as soya sauce chicken, fried Hokkien mee and braised fish head.

The choices are mainly based on Ms Woon's cravings. There are also food preparation videos in which he shows how to clean pig's intestines, for instance.

The channel has more than 1,400 subscribers to date.

Ms Woon, a brand director with a healthcare company, says: "Having a husband who cooks well is like having a zi char stall at home. By doing these cooking videos, I want to showcase the joy of eating his food and preserve his cooking legacy."

Mr Roland Lim prepares prawn fritters:

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline Crispy zi char-style deep-fried prawn fritters. Subscribe