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The "colossal" prawns.

The "colossal' prawns

Big and dramatic--with a price tag to match. Are giant prawns worth their cost? They are when you want a smashing presentation for a special meal.

Like the smaller, less showy shrimp, these behemoths take well to a variety of preparations. Here, we give you four guest-worthy options: barbecued or broiled with bacon, sauteed with orange and garlic, served in a hot and spicy curry, or accompanied with grapefruit and avocado for a luncheon salad.

Fish markets and some grocery stores carry large prawns; prices range widely-- from $9 to $20 a pound. Most are frozen and sold thawed; occasionally you may find them fresh. Colors for raw prawns can be white, pink, blue, green, or brown with stripes, but they all turn pinkish red when cooked.

Shrimp or prawn? Size makes the difference

Prawns and shrimp refer to the same creature, but larger shrimp are often called prawns. Some very large prawns are incorrectly identified as scampi, but this is another shellfish entirely (much like a lobster).

Here, we're concerned with prawns that are 15 to the pound and under, often referred to by the seafood industry as colossal (10 to 15 per pound) and extracolossal (under 10 per pound). Since labeling varies from market to market, ask what the count is per pound to be sure of what you're getting.

Where do they come from?

Giant prawns fall into two categories: marine (salt water) and fresh water.

Warm-water marine prawns, the bulk of what's available here, come from the Gulf of Mexico, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Gulf prawns and tiger prawns are the commonest variety names you'll see. They have firm flesh and a sweet flavor.

Cold-water marine prawns are available on a very limited, seasonal basis, mainly in coastal towns (the prawns range from Southern California to Alaska). The commonest large variety is the spot prawn.

Fresh-water prawns are farm raised in Hawaii, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Compared with marine prawns, their flesh is softer, their flavor blander. The most available is the tiger, a different species from the marine tiger. Since many stores don't distinguish between the two, ask what you're getting.

Curried Prawns with Whole Spices

1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and peeled

1/4 cup packed cilantro (coriander) leaves

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup water

1 large onion, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

3 tablespoons salad oil

3 bay leaves

6 small dried hot red chilies

2 cinnamon sticks, each about 3 1/2 inches long

1/4 teaspoon each whole allspice and black peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 1/2 pounds colossal (10 to 15 per lb.) or extra-colossal (under 10 per lb.) prawns, shelled and deveined

Hot cooked long-grain white rice

Cilantro sprigs

In a blender, puree tomatoes, cilantro leaves, lemon juice, and water; set aside. In a 12- to 14-inch frying pan over medium heat, cook onion and ginger in oil until onion is golden, about 15 minutes; stir often. Add bay leaves, chilies, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, coriander, and cardamom; stir for 2 minutes. Add tomato mixture. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until sauce thickens, 10 to 12 minutes more; stir occasionally.

Add prawns and simmer, uncovered, until opaque in center (cut to test), about 8 minutes; turn once or twice. Spoon prawns and sauce next to rice on a platter. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serves 4.

Barbecued or Broiled Prawns Wrapped in Bacon

For each entree, serve 2 or 4 colossal or 1 or 2 extra-colossal prawns. For each appetizer, allow 1 or 2 colossal prawns.

Bacon strips (1 for each prawn)

8 or 16 colossal (10 to 15 per lb.) or 4 or 8 extra-colossal (under 10 per lb.) prawns, shelled except for tails and deveined

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon, a portion at a time, turning, until some of the fat cooks out (bacon should not be crisp), about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Wrap each prawn with a piece of bacon. Arrange prawns on flat surface. For each pairing (see photograph on preceding page), hook head ends of 2 prawns around one another with tails pointing in opposite directions. On 2 parallel wood or metal skewers (about 12 in. long), thread 1 set of extra-colossal prawns or 2 sets of colossals. Repeat for remaining prawns.

To barbecue. Mound 50 charcoal briquets on firegrate and ignite. When coals are covered with ash, about 35 minutes, spread about 1/2 inch apart. Set grill 4 to 6 inches above coals. Place skewers on grill. (If skewers won't all fit, do in 2 batches.) Cook prawns, turning once, until bacon is crisp and prawns are opaque in center (cut to test), 10 to 12 minutes. Use a water sprayer to extinguish flare-ups.

To broil. Place skewers on a rack in a broiler pan, about 12- by 15-inch size. (If skewers won't all fit on pan at once, use 2 ovens or do in 2 batches.) Broil about 4 inches from heat, turning once, until bacon is crisp and prawns are opaque in center (cut to test), 6 to 10 minutes. Makes 8 appetizer or 4 entree servings.

Garlic and Orange Sauteed Prawns

20 colossal prawns (10 to 15 per lb.), shelled except for tails


1/2 pound dry angel hair (capellini) pasta

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed well and tough stems removed

1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 1/2 tablespoons dry basil

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 1/2 cups orange juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cut prawns along outside curve halfway through to inside curve; cut from head to within 1 inch of tail. Devein; set aside.

Fill a 3- to 4-quart pan 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add pasta and boil, uncovered, until just tender to bite, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat, drain pasta, then put back in pan; cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a covered 12- to 14-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, cook half of spinach at a time, with water that clings to leaves, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Lift from pan, drain, set aside, and keep warm.

In same pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and basil; stir often until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add prawns; cook, turning once or twice, until prawns look opaque, 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine orange peel, orange and lemon juices, and cornstarch. Add to prawns; stir until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Remove prawns from sauce and set aside. Using 2 forks, toss pasta with orange sauce and spoon equal portions onto 4 warm dinner plates. Place 1/4 of the spinach in center of each dish and shape into a 5-inch round. Arrange 5 prawns, tails up, in a starfish pattern on each spinach round (see picture at top of page 182). Makes 4 servings.

Prawn and Grapefruit Salad


8 colossal (10 to 15 per lb.) prawns, shelled except for tails and deveined

3 medium-size pink grapefruit

1/4 cup salad oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 cup lightly packed watercress, washed and crisped

2 large firm-ripe avocados

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Fill a 5- to 6-quart pan 1/2 full with water; bring to a boil over high heat. Add prawns, cover, take off heat. Let stand until prawns are opaque in center (cut to test), about 3 minutes. Drain; let cool.

Ream enough juice from 1 grapefruit to make 1/2 cup; discard reamed fruit. In a bowl, combine the juice, oil, vinegar, and cooked prawns.

Grate peel (golden part only) from 1 of the remaining grapefruit. With a vegetable peeler, pare golden part of peel from the third grapefruit and cut enough very thin shreds to make 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add grated and shredded peel to juice mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or until the next day.

With a knife, cut remaining peel and white membrane from both grapefruit. Hold fruit over a bowl and cut fruit segments from membrane, catching juices. Squeeze membrane in your hand to extract remaining juice.

Lift grapefruit segments from juice and arrange on 4 salad plates with watercress. Cut avocados in half, then pit and peel. Coat avocados with grapefruit juice; put a half on each plate. Lift prawns from dressing and place 2 on each avocado half. Offer dressing and salt and pepper to season each portion. Makes 4 luncheon servings.

Photo: Shown half actual size, these giant prawns are the ones you're most likely to see

Photo: Gulf prawn (marine) 12 to 15 per pound (this one is 15); $9 to $17

Photo: Fresh-water tiger prawn 4 to 9 per pound (this one is 8); $12 to $13

Photo: Marine tiger prawn 4 to 15 per pound (this one is 4); $9 to $20

Photo: Quarter-pound prawns wrapped in bacon cook quickly on the barbecue and make an eye-catching entree

Photo: Starfish is a cluster of orange-seasoned prawns in a sea of capellini pasta and spinach

Photo: For Indian-style curry, saute onions, spices, tomatoes, then add prawns. Serve with rice

Photo: Classic Western salad features prawns with avocado, grapefruit, and watercress
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1986
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