These skewers full of wonderfully exotic flavours are a wonderful addition to any party spread... or an excellent entree at your next BBQ! They're a far cry from the ones served as pub grub, full of grease and served with the ubiquitous store-bought sweet chilli sauce. These here are fresh and healthy as they are grilled rather than deep-fried. Quickly put together, they benefit from a few hours in the fridge for the flavours to mingle - so you have time to get on with other stuff.
The picture above was taken at a catering I did a while ago - limited in space, I had to use my Foreman Grill, but they are even better grilled on a charcoal BBQ and eaten straight off it. Serve them with a dipping sauce consisting of brown sugar, soy sauce and lime juice, add chopped garlic, chilli and coriander to your liking.
Similar types of prawn cakes are available throughout Asia - on a recent trip to Vietnam, we saw them on almost every streetcorner. They call them Chao Tom there and they're actually moulded, lollipop style, onto pieces of sugar cane. While this is available at most supermarkets here, I realise that it is more difficult to get your hands on it elsewhere, which is why this version using lemongrass is a great alternative - the fringe benefit being the wonderful flavour it imparts!
12 stalks lemongrass
1 kg fresh raw tiger prawns
1 egg white
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
ca. half a thumb's length of fresh ginger rhizome (peeled and grated)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 green chillies (seeds removed, finely chopped)
1 handful coriander leaves (finely chopped)
1 heaped tbsp corn starch
For the dipping sauce:
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp water
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
1 Thai red chilli (thinly sliced)
a few leaves of coriander (finely sliced)
Peel and devein the prawns, chop finely in a food processor. Now beat the egg whites with a fork and combine with the prawn mince, add the remaining ingredients and fold them in to distribute evenly. Leave to stand in the fridge for an hour or more for the flavours to infuse.
The lemongrass stalks should be prepared by removing the tough outer leaves, then trimming the bottoms while keeping the core that holds the leaves together intact. Now cut them in half, from the bottom up. Trim to desired length.
Prepare the dipping sauce. Combine the sugar, fish and soy sauces in a pan, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool a little before adding the garlic, chilli and lime juice. The coriander leaves should be chopped and added last minute so they don't wilt and lose their aroma.
When ready to serve, heat the grill - or use a griddle pan, if you wish. Take about a tablespoon full of mixture and form into a ball. This is much easier when your hands are wet. You should get 24 out of the mixture.
Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Serve piping hot with the dip on the side.