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salt baked msc spencer gulf king prawn with "sort of " nouc mam cham

(december 2011)

This method of cooking relies on super heated rock salt and "burying" the whole prawns in it to cook. The result is a paper thin head, tail and carapace (fancy word for the prawn's mid section, shell, feet and flippers). You can crunch right through the whole head and body - eat the whole thing from head to tail. No peeling, no waste, tonnes of flavour and a juicy succulent prawn. If you're put off by the thought of biting through a prawn shell and head, well close your eyes and at least give it a shot, the dish is amazing.

The dipping sauce is a Vietnamese nouc mam cham, minus fish sauce (or salt), which is omitted because the prawns will already be nice and salty from the salt baking.

salt baked msc spencer gulf king prawn with "sort of " nouc mam cham

serves 4 as a generous entree

prawns
1 kg rock salt
12 whole green u/10 or u/8 (huge!) MSC certified Spencer Gulf King Prawns
5 kaffir lime leaves
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
6 whole big red dried chili
2 cassia sticks
6 star anise

Spread out the rock salt in a wok or on a flat top bbq and heat on full tilt. Stand back as the salt will pop and crackle as the moisture evaporates, a few pieces might even launch themselves!

Once it's very, very hot (after about 10 mins), dig a trench or hole in the salt, place the prawns and spices in then cover over with rock salt. The heat of the salt cooks the prawns in about 5 mins. When juice starts oozing out of the prawn is beyond ready.

Unbury the prawns, shake off excess salt Dip a prawn completely in the dipping sauce and eat (starting at the head)!

nouc mam cham
60 ml rice vinegar
60 ml coconut water (sometimes called young coconut juice, it's the pale "water" you get when you crack a fresh coconut, but is available tinned in Asian grocers)
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 bird's eye chilli, thinly sliced (remove seeds if you don't like it hot)
40 ml lime or lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and whisk until sugar dissolved.