five spice shrimp with crispy noodles
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This is different to your usual stir fry: it’s a warm stir fried salad. The crispy noodles are totally optional: you can do soft noodles or no noodles. The combination of vegetables is free as well, as long as you start off with a bed of greens. The crucial players in this game are prawns.
It’s stormy waters with prawns. First off, what are they actually called: prawn or shrimp? Are small prawns shrimp and large shrimp prawns or am I just using the same words here in random order? Is ‘jumbo shrimp’ an oxymoron seeing as ‘shrimp’ refers to a not very large creature at all? Is it only the usual word battle between UK and US?
Secondly, there’s wild and farmed. Undisputedly the wild ones should be tastier but their sustainability is a serious issue: wild ones are caught by appalling methods like bottom trawling which destroys the ocean bed and is indiscriminate for the by-catch. Farmed, especially the nice fat tigers and kings, are often produced in such horrific conditions that would put you off prawn cocktail for life.
That’s the third issue then: the big fat ones, the jumbo king tigers are warm water prawns. If farmed or caught organically, they are blindingly expensive. If cheap – they are trash and farming them trashes the marine environment.
What to do? I’ve been trawling (not bottom) various fishery websites, MCS and press articles and I’m actually not much the wiser. It transpires that the smaller North Atlantic prawns SEEM to be the ocean-friendly option, as long as they come from organically certified fisheries or farms – but it’s by no means crystal clear. The ones frozen on boat will be fresher, too, all things considered. So it looks like eating local (for us in UK) proves to be the rule of thumb again.
Which means that the salad below will not look as impressive as it would if featuring the giant prawns – but it will taste better. On all accounts.
- Serves 4
- 400g (15oz) fresh or frozen and thawed king prawns, peeled and deveined (about 100g per person)
- sea salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. Chinese Shaoxing wine, sake or dry sherry
- 2 tbsp. cornflour
- 200g (4 nests) medium egg noodles
- groundnut oil
- 400g (just under 1 pound) pak choi, chopped very roughly
- 2 red peppers, cored and sliced into thin strips
- 200g (7oz) shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 large clove of fresh garlic, peeled and pressed
- ¼ tsp cayenne or mild chili pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
- a few spring onions, roughly chopped
- a few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped
- lime wedges, for garnish
Sprinkle the prawns with salt, sugar and the five spice. Add the soy sauce, the wine and toss in a bowl with the corn flour. Leave to marinate at least 15 minutes, chill if keeping them longer. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle with a little oil and shake off the liquid well on a colander.
Prepare a large serving dish that you will be layering the stir fry on and warm it up in low oven or a warming drawer until really hot.
Heat the wok with about 2 tbsp. oil. When hot, add the noodles and toss them frequently until crispy. Place around the edge of the serving dish and keep warm.
Wipe the wok with paper towel and turn the heat down to medium. Add the pak choi and stir fry for 3-5 minutes until just wilted. Transfer to the serving dish.
Turn the heat under the wok to high again with 2 tbsp. of oil. Lift the prawns from the marinade and add to the wok in a single layer (do it in batches if necessary). Let them cook on one side until pink, turn them over with a spatula or chopsticks and cook on the other side for a minute. Lift them onto the pak choi on the serving platter.
Add the peppers and mushrooms to the wok, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and stir fry for 5 minutes until they start to soften – you might add a splash of water to help them along and to get the stuck on marinade off the bottom of the wok.
Add the ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper to the vegetables and stir fry until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Spoon the vegetables onto the prawn layer on the serving dish. Drizzle with sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, chopped onions and coriander and serve immediately with lime wedges.