Chinese restaurants in Spain are quite different from Chinese restaurants in the US; which makes you wonder, of course, which, if either, is the most authentic. While certain dishes, like my favorite almond chicken, can be found in the restaurants of both countries, other dishes, appetizers, and desserts are non-existant in one country or the other.
Prawn crackers are one of those. I have never been to a Chinese restaurant in Spain that doesn’t greet you with a plate of prawn crackers before your meal, nor have I ever seen them at any Chinese restaurant that I’ve been to in the US.
My son is obsessed with them, and I have a bit of a love hate relationship with them.
Why do I love them?
Well, they are usually made with tapioca flour and no wheat, so they are gluten and grain free. Plus, I like the texture and find them addictive.
What don’t I love?
At restaurants, I don’t know what oil has been chosen to fry them, or for how long it’s been used. They are often dyed strange colors, like an unnatural pink, to mimic the amount of shrimp that they likely don’t have. Lastly, without being able to see the ingredient list of the particular prawn crackers in each place, I don’t know which ones use wheat or other ingredients I’m avoiding, and which do not.
Making them at home isn’t difficult, but most people’s idea of making them at home is buying a box of prawn cracker disks and frying them at home. That method does help with some of the problems with prawn crackers from restaurants. By frying them myself, I can use any fresh oil that I choose, and can check the ingredients of the prawn crackers I buy.
Sadly, though, none of the available prawn crackers seem to have much prawn in them at all. So, I decided to make some prawn crackers from scratch. Yes, you read that right; completely from scratch!!
People here will probably think that tI’m crazy for using fresh, red, Denia shrimp for my prawn crackers, since they are considered an expensive, gourmet food saved for special occasions; but seeing as my husband is a shrimp fisherman, I tend to have some to spare. 😉 (Jealous?)
This a great way for me to use up leftover shrimp. The shrimp my husband catches are naturally red, so my crackers end up with a natural coral pink color. The flavor and color of your crackers will depend on the shrimp you use, of course.
Seeing as how this week my son has been celebrating the Chinese New Year at school, this is the perfect time to share this recipe with you!
For those who love Asian food, I also have a few other Asian inspired recipes up like my grain free fortune cookies, my pickled ginger, or my fried zucchini noodles.
Prawn Crackers from Scratch
Add your shrimp to your food processor, and process until you have achieved a fine paste.
Add in your tapioca flour, and continue to process until the mixture comes together into a thick dough.
Add in your salt, and any other spices that you want to add, and mix them in well, to taste. You can add in a bit of cayenne pepper if you want spicy prawn crackers. If you want your crackers to puff up more when deep frying them, add in a little baking powder.
Check the texture of your dough. You may need to add in a bit of water, or a bit more tapioca flour, to get a workable dough.
Knead the dough until it is smooth, adding more flour and/or water as needed.
Shape the dough into two log shaped rolls that will fit into your steamer. I placed mine directly in my bamboo steamer, but have since read that other people place them over banana leaves or foil.
Steam for about an hour. You will notice that the color and texture of your rolls will change quite a bit.
Remove the dough from the steamer, and let them cool. They should now have a rubbery texture.
Cut thin slices from your rolls of dough. You can use a sharp knife or a food processor, like I did.
Dry the slices using your method of choice. I set mine out in the sun, covered by netting to keep insects away, but you can also use a dehydrator or an oven at low heat. They will probably curl up a little, and they should dry up into hard little disks.
Once completely dry, you can deep fry your prawn crackers. Use enough oil so that your crackers can be submerged in the oil completely. To achieve the right temperature, wait until a small piece of cracker sinks down in the oil and then immediately floats up to the surface and begins to expand. You may have to press down on the crackers to submerge them completely in the oil, or they may not expand completely, leaving dry, hard, un-fried areas.
Remove from the oil, and drain on cloths or paper towels. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
The remaining disks, if well dehydrated, can be saved in jar for months until you are ready to fry them. I keep mine in the fridge, but that probably isn't necessary.
This post is also available in Español.