I taught Thai cooking classes for years and this recipe was easily one of the all time favorites. Bursting with the flavors of fresh cilantro and garlic is how everyone describes it.
The stems of cilantro have more flavor than the leaves and that is why they are used in this recipe, along with a hefty amount of garlic. Use the 26/30 size prawns (meaning 26 to 30 per pound or “medium” size) if they are available as they are the perfect size to put in your mouth in one bite and there are more per pound than the more expensive larger size.
I was once told by a Thai student in one of my classes that when you serve a dish like this you want to make sure to get rice, wilted lettuce, prawn and some of the lime fish sauce in every bite as this is how they authentically eat it in Thailand.
The prawns can also be served as an appetizer mounded on a leaf lettuce lined platter and poked with short skewers for easy grabbing.
- ½ cup chopped cilantro stems (use the stem part located below the leaves)
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (available in Asian section of most grocery stores)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
- 1 pound medium (26/30 per pound) or large prawns (16/20 size) peeled and deveined
- 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 1 head red or green leaf lettuce
- Cooked jasmine or basmati rice
- Puree or pound cilantro stems, garlic and oil until the mixture is a rough paste; set aside.
- Whisk together water, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and lime zest; set aside.
- Cook and stir cilantro paste in a wok or large sauté pan over medium heat, just until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add prawns, cooking and stirring to get prawns mixed with the paste, until prawns are cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook prawns. Add white pepper and cook and stir until evenly mixed with prawns.
- Add fish sauce mixture to prawns; bring to simmer and cook to heat through, about 2 minutes.
- Line a bowl or platter with lettuce leaves; with a slotted spoon, arrange prawns on lettuce; pour sauce that remains in the pan over prawns.
- Serve prawns with cooked rice and fish and lime sauce.