Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Drunken prawns

A shrimp is a shrimp; a prawn is, well...a shrimp. These two words can be used quite interchangeably whilst some people say the difference IS in size. In many countries, small and medium shrimp are sold simply as shrimp, while large, extra-large, and jumbo shrimp are called prawns.

Unfortunately, this "rule" doesn't always hold. In some areas, all shrimps, small and large, are sold as shrimp, while in other regions, all you'll find are prawns. I can't help but laugh at my own ignorance when only about a year ago, I found out that Udang is actually the Malay word for shrimp/prawns. :O

Shrimps/prawns are quite high in nutrient density. Shrimp/prawn is an excellent source of selenium and is unusually a low-fat, low-calorie protein. Shrimp also emerged as a very good source of vitamin D and vitamin B12. For these facts, shrimp/prawn provides cardiovascular benefits and is timely for a easy recipe (restaurant dish, simplified for the home cook) to be shared over at Heart of Matter #5 - Waterlife. Talking about Vitamin B12, this is one of the nutrients that keep levels of homocysteine low(homocysteine - a molecule that can directly damage blood vessel walls and considered a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease). Not limited to fish, shrimps/prawns are also a good source of cardio-protective omega-3 fatty acids, noted for their anti-inflammatory effects and ability to prevent the formation of blood clots.

I've been looking for "live" shrimps/prawns around the Bay Area. "Live" as in, still swimming in the tank. The ones I see here are often, either frozen or thawed on bed of ice. There's always a saying that describes human complexity... if you want something very much, bent on having it, sometimes you will never find it (or at least go through great difficulty); but if you "let go of your deep desires", don't think much about it, often you will find this "thing" (be it object, feeling, etc.) coming after you, appearing right in front of you. Look what I accidentally found one day... Spot Prawns!!! I was not preparing to buy any shrimps or prawns that day but I saw it! And they were "live", still swimming in the tank. What's better, they were not the typical farm-raised shrimps/prawns. Live spot prawns (USA/Wild)!!!

I swear that this feeling of euphoria is enough to put me in a slightest heart excitement attack, even if I'm cooking these simply (without the use of bad fats)

At $13.99-$16.99/lb (depending if on sale and VERY SEASONALLY SHORT), I bought it! Erratic exuberance! Irrational extravagance!

I bought four pounds prawns (you can guess how much they cost), just to satisfy my own cravings. And I swear again that picking those "live" prawns from that "water pool" was not easy (in seizure state, again). When I use those kitchen-like tongs provided at the seafood station on those prawns, they just spurt out water, and I, nervously, have to let go of them. After much trying and facing much resistance from the prawns, four unlucky ones were chosen. They were the chosen ones. Suddenly, I felt like a bad crook. :(

So, how did I cook them?

Drunken prawns
- Live spot prawns (or any live prawns)
- dashes of cooking wine, shaoxing
- some ginger, sliced thinly
- some goji/wolberries

1. "Marinate" the prawns with some cooking wine (errr....in other words...make them "drunk")
2. Boil some water or stock in a pot. When boiling, add slices of ginger and some goji berries.
3. Then add in the prawns, and cook till they turn pink
4. Dish out and serve (Note: Set the remaining broth/soup aside to drink, as it contains the goodness and flavors of shrimps, ginger and goji berries - nutritious)

Cooked whole, eat whole, AND...you just have to suck out the juices from the prawn head :O

Soooo succulent and juicy...now this can be in my memory

Drunken prawns...the story continues: You could find this dish in most Chinese seafood restaurants, sometimes in a Chinese wedding course-dinner. In the Chinese seafood restaurant, live prawns are brought to the table in a bowl of soy and wine in which they, literally, drown. :O You will realize the prawns are still alive when they start flapping about in a transparent casserole bowl. The prawns will be cooked over the portable stove-top, right in front of you. Within a few minutes (when the prawns stop moving, or are slow and painfully dead), peel off the shell and eat immediately. Not so much of being cruel, the restaurant just wants to ensure the freshest prawns being served to their patrons. Seeing is believing, isn't it?

Well, I have here, the restaurant delicacy simplified for the home cook. The main ingredient - shrimps/prawns certainly demonstrate its nutrition benefits; and the cooking method - boiling, does not introduce any unhealthy elements to the dish. All perfect for the heart. Just maybe, the story of the drunken prawns, may not be for the weak-hearted.

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