So I might struggle to find some ingredients here, but prawns are something Singapore definitely has no shortage of and the quality is absolutely amazing! There are many seafood restaurants in town and for someone coming from a country/continent where seafood is rarely available fresh (meaning that it hasn't been frozen or transported on ice somewhere along the supply chain), this country certainly is prawn heaven. No matter where you go, you can be sure to be served the plumpest and juiciest prawns - fingerlickingly good.
Our first experience of eating prawns here was on Boat Quay - now, to even the most seasoned, but still undiscerning tourist, this might look like the tourist trap par excellence... in the middle of the Financial District and close to all the sights, a row of restaurants lined up along the river, right where the cruises depart. If it wasn't for two little boys (and the two adults lugging them around and cheering them on "come on, it's only 35C in the shade!") who happened to be utterly exhausted after what really was just a short walk, it wouldn't even have crossed our minds to enter one of the eateries there on the river. Where we come from, big, fat panels of glossy photos of, well, food (but not the kind of foodporn you find on blogs these days, just poorly photographed dishes of unidentifiable food objects) don't really scream "die, die, must try" or even "decent food at reasonable prices" at you... they holler "get out of here as fast as you can, this is a complete rip-off and you'll probably be hugging the toilet for days".
Not so here. After passing by the 15th restaurant and its seafront garden and fending off many a smooth-talking waiter, I let myself finally be lured into one of them (it was the "fish and chips available" that did it, you might remember that the day before, my son had said that he hated Chinese food and that was that) - and Chris and I had the most wonderful selection of top-quality prawns we had had in a very long time. The sheer variety on offer will bowl you over, but I will have to delve into the weird (cereal prawns, anyone?) and wonderful (drunken prawns, yessir!) ways of enjoying your crustaceans on another occasion.
Now that I call a (fantabulous!) kitchen my own and have a great wet market just around the corner, I obviously want to get my hand dirty and cook again... Vietnamese being one of my favourite cuisines on this continent, I finally embarked on getting my money's worth out of Lemongrass and Lime, a cookbook I bought ages ago - I had simply been struggling to find the ingredients. And what in London would have involved a car journey to the Asian supermarket and my tried and trusted fish monger, both in different parts of town, is now available right on my doorstep... you can see why I am loving it here, right?
These prawns are deep-fried just for a minute in order to retain all their succulent juices, the crispy coating of a light batter providing a lovely contrast of textures. I love the salad they come with it, its flavours being like a summation of what Vietnamese cooking is about: fresh, crunchy ingredients bursting with flavour - sweet, sour, salty all happening in one bite in perfect unison. It actually uses the same sauce you will serve for dipping, the ubiquitous Nuoc Cham. I have made a mental note to include coriander and mint leaves when I make it again, just because I am addicted to these herbs and they feature widely in Vietnamese cooking, so I think the food police has nothing on me.
Way better than cereal prawns, but that's just my personal opinion!!!