Serve this surprisingly easy-to-make dish as a starter to a leisurely, elegant meal. We like the stunning presentation of offering each guest four prawns on a stone warm from the oven alongside a spoonful of the sour green mango salad on a stone chilled for several hours in the refrigerator. The contrast in temperature is marvelous. Of course, you can always serve the appetizer on a platter, as instructed below. Two pounds should allow for about 16 prawns. Panko breadcrumbs are dried white breadcrumbs that originate from Asia. They add extra crispiness to and interest to this already alluring dish.—Mark Read
For the nuoc cham (dipping sauce)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 ounces superfine sugar
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 large red chile peppers, cut in half, deseeded, and finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about one large lemon)
For the shrimp
16 raw prawns
1 sour green mango, available from Asian stores
4 tablespoons flour
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
3 tablespoons Japanese panko breadcrumbs
Sunflower or vegetable oil, for deep frying
1 bunch mizuna (or young, tender arugula leaves), picked, washed, and drained
3 tablespoons Nuoc Cham (below), plus extra for serving, if desired
1 large red chile pepper, cut in half lengthwise, deseeded, and finely sliced
Make the nuoc cham sauce
1. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm (do not boil) the fish sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chiles. When the sauce becomes moderately hot, about 140°F (60°C), remove from the heat and cool completely. Stir in the lemon juice. The sauce will keep for at least one week, covered, in the refrigerator. For best results, it should be made at least one day in advance to allow the flavors of the chiles and garlic to infuse the liquid.
Prepare the shrimp
1. Peel the prawns, leaving on the tail shells for garnish. Cut a lengthwise slit through the center, keeping the prawns attached at the tops and bottoms. Devein, then gently pull the tails through the slits creating a twisted appearance. Refrigerate, covered, until needed.
2. Peel and shred the mango into long, thin strips. Then peel and cut the cucumber into strips. Combine the two in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, egg whites, and soy sauce. Combine the sesame seeds and panko breadcrumbs in a third bowl.
4. Toss the prawns in the flour-egg mixture. Then toss them in the breadcrumb mixture to coat completely.
5. Heat the oil and, when hot, deep-fry the prawns, about 1 minute; drain on paper towels.
6. To serve, arrange the mizuna leaves around a serving dish. In a bowl, combine the mango and cucumber with the Nuoc Cham and chile pepper, then arrange in a pile on top of the leaves. Place the prawns around the garnish, tails facing outward to makes them easier to pick up. Serve with extra Nuoc Cham in dipping bowls, if desired.
Recipe © 2001 Co & Bear Productions (UK) Ltd. All rights reserved.