Most Thai households have all the seasoning ingredients for this in their kitchen, so they just need to go to the markets and pick up some fresh prawns. The combination of palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind puree provides the perfect balance of sweet, salty and sour that Thai cuisine strives for. You can also use the tamarind sauce to top a deep-fried whole fish, such as a snapper. The fish flesh absorbs the flavour, providing a nice balance with the crispy skin.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (79 votes)


  • 2 cups (500 ml) vegetable oil
  • 8 large raw king prawns, peeled and deveined, with tails intact
  • 40 g tapioca flour
  • 20 g rice flour
  • ½ bunch Chinese broccoli (gai lan), trimmed and cut into 4–5 cm lengths
  • large handful coriander leaves
  • 1 large fresh red chilli, julienned

Tamarind sauce

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 small dried chillies
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 large fresh red chillies, julienned
  • 8 red shallots, sliced
  • 3 red birds-eye chillies, chopped
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) fish sauce
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) tamarind puree
  • 150 g soft palm sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200 ml water

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.


To make the tamarind sauce, heat the oil in a deep heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add the dried chillies, then deep-fry until crisp. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towel. Add the garlic and large fresh chilli to the pan and cook for 1 minute, then add the shallot and continue cooking for another 1 minute, then add the birds-eye chilli, fish sauce, tamarind, palm sugar and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Crumble the deep-fried dried chillies. Carefully add the water and dried chilli to the sauce, then simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Set aside. 

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Place the prawns on a large flat plate. Combine the tapioca flour and rice flour and sprinkle over the prawns to coat, then shake off any excess.

Deep-fry a few prawns at a time in the hot oil for 6 minutes or until the prawns just change colour and are cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining prawns.

Meanwhile, blanch the Chinese broccoli in a saucepan of boiling water for 1–2 minutes, then drain.

Pour 300g of the tamarind sauce into a small heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Leftover tamarind sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Place the Chinese broccoli on a serving plate and top with the prawns. Drizzle with the hot tamarind sauce and garnish with coriander leaves and chilli, then serve.


Recipe from Spice I Am by Sujet Saenkham, with photographs by Rob Palmer. Published by Lantern.