Prawn cocktails are simple but learning how to poach your own prawns changes everything. The method not only gives you crisp prawns, but also a big flavour not often found in pre-cooked store-bought prawns.






Skill level

Average: 5 (2 votes)


  • 320 g salt
  • 20 raw banana prawns
  • 100 g shredded iceberg lettuce
  • drizzle of lemon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) tomato sauce
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste


  • 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 50 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time: 10 minutes

  1. To cook the prawns, use the standard rule for cooking shellfish: for every 2 litres of water, add 160 g of salt. Be sure not to overcrowd the pot – 20 prawns to one pot is the absolute maximum; for this number of prawns use 4-5 litres of water.
  2. In a medium-large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the water and salt over high heat. When it reaches a rapid boil, add the prawns and cover. Return to the boil, then stir, cover and boil for another 2-3 minutes. It’s important that the water stays at a continuous rapid boil – this will yield prawns with a crisp bite.
  3. Drain the prawns into a colander and immediately plunge them into a bowl of iced water to refresh. When completely cool, remove from the water, peel and clean.
  4. For the mayonnaise, place the egg yolks in the small bowl of an electric stand mixer and whisk to combine. Whisk in vinegar, mustard and a good pinch of salt. Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the oil, drop by drop at first and then in a slow steady stream until thick and emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. This will make more than you need for this recipe, but it will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  5. For the cocktail sauce, place ⅔ cup mayonnaise in a bowl. Add ⅓ cup tomato sauce and a splash of Tabasco to taste. Stir to combine well.
  6. Place the shredded lettuce in a bowl, drizzle with a little lemon oil and season to taste. Toss to combine well.
  7. Divide the lettuce and prawns between serving plates and serve with the cocktail sauce on the side.


Adam Liaw cooks, laughs, and explores culture with some of Australia's most beloved in The Cook Up With Adam Liaw.

Photography by Danielle Abou Karam.