Foodstuff is a freelance food writer who has been exploring the art of fermentation. Traditional Chinese preserves is her latest project.
"Oooh! I can taste prawns! " is the pleasantly surprised reaction from anyone who tastes homemade prawn crackers for the first time. Unlike commercial prawn crackers—where the cost of prawns combined with profit imperative results in there being little, if any, of the crustacean present in the product—homemade versions will have upwards of 50% real prawns in them. Added bonuses are that there are no preservatives, colouring agents or other artificial additives.
Making prawn crackers is really easy. The only special equipment you will need if is a dehydrator. The crackers can be sun-dried but you'll need to watch out for 'local wildlife' such as cats etc from sampling your wares.
Homemade prawn crackers reflect the individual flavour characteristics of the type of prawns used. I've run a horizontal taste test of prawn crackers made with different types of prawns. Result? The most magnificent (and expensive!) crackers are from wild-caught King prawns. Farmed prawns tend to produce a much milder prawn flavour. However, all are far superior to any commercial product.
You can also experiment with other types of seafood such as scallops, fish or for the ultimate indulgence, lobster or crayfish!
The recipe should be looked at as a guideline for ingredient ratios. The aim is to try to keep the ratio of prawn meat to tapioca starch at 1:1 or less (i.e. more prawn than tapioca starch).
- 1 kilogram whole prawns to yield 500 grams of prawn meat after deheading and shelling
- 500 grams tapioca starch (100 grams for making paste and an additional 400 grams for making dough)
- 200 millilitres prawn stock (made from heads and shells)
- 3 to 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- Ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Step 1: Prepare Prawn Stock
Remove heads and shells from prawns. Using a small sharp knife, de-vein the prawns by making a slit along the back of each prawn and removing the intestinal tract. Dry the prawn meat with kitchen paper and set aside.
Place the heads and shells into a large pot with enough water to barely cover.
Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to approximately 300 millilitres. The reduced volume of liquid doesn't have to be precise at this stage; the aim is to get as much flavour out of the heads and shells as possible and achieve a concentrated prawn stock.
Step 2: Make Prawn Starch Paste
This is akin to the sourdough starter in bread making.
Strain the heads and shells from the prawn stock and measure the amount of stock. Weigh the prawn meat. For every 500 grams of prawn meat, you require 200 millilitres of liquid. If the stock is greater than 200 mL, boil it down to 200 mL. If you have only 425 g prawn meat, boil the stock down to 170 mL. The arithmetic for the ratio calculation is as follows:
425 ÷ 500 = 0.85 or 85% of the base reference weight of 500 g
Therefore, you only need 85% of the 200 mL liquid that applies for 500 g prawn meat. 85% of 200 mL is 170 mL.
Weigh out 100 grams of tapioca starch for 500 grams prawn meat. Again, if you have less prawn meat, use proportionately less. Sift the starch into a small bowl.
Gradually add boiling hot prawn stock to the starch to make a sticky paste. If your stock is very dense, it will be more like a dough ball as illustrated in this picture.
Step 3: Prepare the Prawn Meat Paste
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, blend the prawn meat together with salt and pepper to a fine paste.
Add the tapioca starch paste that you have made in the previous step and blend until the mixture is well combined and homogenous.
Step 4: Make the Dough
Sift 400 grams tapioca starch with 2 teaspoons baking powder in a large bowl. Transfer the prawn paste to a separate large bowl.
Gradually work the sifted starch into the prawn paste until you get a malleable dough. You don't want the dough to be too dry; add only enough starch to take the dough to a state where it can be easily handled and formed into rolls.
Depending on how damp the prawn paste is (which depends on how well you dried off the prawns and the stickiness of your tapioca starch paste), you may not need all 400 grams of tapioca starch. And that's a good thing, as it means you will have a very high prawn content in your crackers!
Step 5: Form Dough Into Rolls, Then Steam
Form the dough into cylindrical rolls of between 3 to 5 centimetres in diameter. You can do this "free hand". What I do to get evenly shaped cylinders is to roll the dough using a sushi mat lined with cling film.
Lightly grease the base of steamer trays or line them with damp muslin. You can use large bamboo steamers similar to the ones you see at dim sum places but they retain the smell of prawns afterward. However, as they are relatively cheap, you can just throw them out after each use. Don't put the rolls on plates to steam as water will collect on the plate and turn your dough into a soggy mess.
Make sure the rolls are spaced well apart as they will double in size during steaming.
Steam the rolls over rapidly boiling water for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the diameter of your rolls. If your steaming vessel doesn't have a vented lid, either leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape or drape damp muslin or tea-towel over the rolls to stop condensation whilst they are cooking.
Step 6: Slice the Rolls to Form Crackers
Place the cooked rolls on a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap each roll with cling film and refrigerate overnight. This allows the rolls to firm up for easy slicing.
Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the rolls into slices of around 1 mm thickness.
Step 7: Dry The Prawn Cracker Slices
It is important the crackers are thoroughly dried and very hard. They will not puff up properly on frying if there is moisture present.
Prawn crackers are traditionally sun-dried, a process that takes several days and good weather on your side. Drying overnight in a dehydrator is the most efficient way but in the absence of a dehydrator, leave them on wire racks in a dry airy place (a sunny spot is ideal but not essential) for at least 24 hours until quite well-dried out and then complete the drying in a very low oven for several hours.
To dry the crackers in a dehydrator, spread the slices in single layers on the food dehydrator trays. Set the dehydrator at the lowest setting (35ºC) and dry the slices for at least 18 hours.
When they are completely dry and hard, store them in an air-tight container in a cool dry place until required. I keep mine in the refrigerator.
Step 8: Fry Prawn Crackers
Deep fry the crackers in very hot oil. As they will puff up within seconds of being placed in the oil, fry only 4–5 crackers at a time so that you can remove them very quickly. Drain the cooked crackers on kitchen paper.
They can be served immediately or stored in a large air-tight jar (you'll find the jar empties very quickly!). Enjoy!
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you add shrimp paste to prawn shell reduction for better colour?
Answer: By shrimp paste, I assume you mean belachan which is dark brown in colour. If you do that, you will alter the the flavour of the prawn crackers. In addition, it will make the crackers brown instead of that lovely rich shade of pink that prawn shells provide. If you feel that brown is a "better colour" and you are happy to have the very distinct aroma and flavour of prawn paste (i.e. belachan), go ahead. But frankly, I would not do that.
Question: Can the prawn crackers be white ?
Answer: They shouldn't be if you are using prawns and prawn stock. However, they would be white if you made fish crackers or squid crackers.
Question: I just had some flavorless 'prawn crackers' from a packet, which is why I looked for an authentic recipe. I have a dehydrator. Once I've dried my prawn crackers, how long can I store them in a jar?
Answer: You can store them pretty much indefinitely as long as your jar is airtight and left in a cool place. I keep mine in the refrigerator.
© 2011 Foodstuff
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on March 05, 2020:
Travel Chef, Yes. You can use an oven. Set it at 35C and keep the oven door slightly open to allow the moisture to escape.
Travel Chef from Manila on March 05, 2020:
I love eating crackers like this as an snack. Good thing I saw this one here. I would love to try your recipe. But I don't have dehydrator, can I use oven?
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on February 03, 2020:
Michele Cobb, The whole prawns in the recipe are raw.
Michele Cobb on February 03, 2020:
Are the whole prawns in the recipe raw or precooked?
Chioulee on November 01, 2018:
Definitely going to try out your recipe.
Thanks for sharing
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 19, 2017:
Miss Amor, The prawn stock has all the shells etc that give it the red colour. The addition of stock has no influence on the crispness of the crackers. Crispness will depend on how well you dried the crackers.
Miss Amor on October 18, 2017:
Hello there. I have some question to ask. May i know why when we put the prawn stock to our crackers, the color of crackers become more bright and the texture is more crisp?
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 10, 2016:
Fifi, Your crackers may not have been dry enough. They must be properly dried out for frying. Or as Ninja suggested, your oil may not have been hot enough.
I hope your crackers still tasted good!
Ninja on October 10, 2016:
Not dry enough, or oil wasn't hot enough. Oil should be at 400F for puffing crackers, pig skin, etc.
Fifi on July 03, 2016:
What a magical moment when my prawn crackers puffed up before my eyes. Could hardly believe I could make something that could behave like this! :)
Only thing is some of my crackers were chewy, what did I maybe miss?
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on June 25, 2016:
Hi Fifi, it is best to use tapioca flour as this has the appropriate binding texture and gives the best final results for the crackers.
Fifi on June 25, 2016:
Hi, great recipe. I also have questions about substituting tapioca powder with potatoe powder or at least adding it for flavour. Would this work? Thanks!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on November 23, 2015:
Great to hear, Jasmine. Glad you enjoyed them.
Jasmine on November 23, 2015:
I just made those. You were right, never again i will eat store bought shrimp chips. I am truly in awe.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 31, 2015:
You could try rice flour, but rice flour behaves differently from tapioca flour.
kiliman on October 30, 2015:
Where I live, I have limited access to exotic ingredients (except Amazon). How about rice flour?
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 30, 2015:
Hi kiliman, Glad to hear you've been making them. No, I don't think you'll get the same results with say, cornflour or potato flour. Are you having problems getting tapioca flour?
kiliman on October 30, 2015:
I have been making these since I found your recipe but since then, I've been using lobster based broth (easier than prawn skin) and crab meat. It is good ! I also added a 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. My question is, is there a substitute for tapioca flour?
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 03, 2015:
You're welcome. Maybe this fall!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on August 03, 2015:
Thanks, Kristen Howe. Hope you will try out the recipe.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 31, 2015:
I never had prawns before. But this recipe looks interesting. Voted up for useful!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 06, 2015:
Hazel Abee Do try it. You will never eat commercial prawn crackers again.
Hazel Abee from Malaysia on July 06, 2015:
This is a must try ... when I saw the boiling prawns .. my thoughts were 'Prawn TomYum'
GadEl from Africa on June 21, 2015:
This is some yummy stuff there. Many people enjoy prawn these days I guess.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on June 14, 2015:
jcsteele, Do try it. You will never eat commercial prawn crackers again!
Jelena from Florida on June 14, 2015:
Really interesting recipe i never thought to make a prawn cracker.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on February 09, 2015:
Easy-tasty-recipe, You could try sun-drying them (just make sure no animals or pests get to them) or put them in a very very low oven.
Easy-tasty-recipe on February 09, 2015:
Oh yummm...I would love to try these but I dont have the dehydrator. :( Any tips?
Thank you for sharing.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 20, 2014:
Hi Hezekiah, Commercial prawn crackers have hardly any prawns, if any, in them. If you look at the ingredients on the commercial packs, some of them say "prawn flavouring"! I hope you will try making these!
Hezekiah from Japan on July 20, 2014:
Looks delicious. It's interesting how some prawn crackers don't even taste like prawns.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on January 31, 2014:
Hi Harry, After you eat home made prawn crackers, you'll never eat commercial ones again. :) Tapioca starch - all Asian grocery stores will have them.
harry on January 31, 2014:
Hi foodstuff. That's really great. According to your description I think I will eat my commercial prawn crackers first and then I'll try tour's or else I think they'll never be eaten!!! By the way where can I get the tapioca starch?
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on January 17, 2014:
Thanks, peachpurple! It's really not a lot of work...do try it!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 17, 2014:
wow, i didn't know making prawn crackers need so much work. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos. Voted up
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on December 11, 2013:
Glad that you now have a great snack with your beer, iguidenetwork!
iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on December 10, 2013:
Now I know about homemade prawn crackers... They are more natural and delicious indeed... Goes great with beer hehehe. Thanks for posting :)
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 31, 2013:
Glad you like it, CrackersAbout Prawns!
CrackersAboutPrawns on October 31, 2013:
Thanks for the recipe!i love prawn crackers so much!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 11, 2013:
You're welcome, vibesites. Enjoy! It's even better when home made.
vibesites from United States on October 11, 2013:
I've had prawn crackers when now and then, but I never thought that it can be made at home, and it's relatively easy indeed! Thanks for sharing your wonderful snack recipe. :)
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on September 29, 2013:
Hi Prawny, I presume you enjoyed the crackers? Great stuff!!!
Prawny on September 28, 2013:
Thank you so much!!!!!!!!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on June 22, 2013:
Hi Food, Enjoy!!!
Food on June 22, 2013:
Wow!!!thank you for the recipe I love prawn crackers!!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on April 15, 2013:
Do try making it. And let me know how you go with the recipe.
Daniel Kwan on April 15, 2013:
I will try.
We used to do it at home in Sandakan, Sabah.
Have been wanting to find a receipt that matches it.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on February 21, 2013:
Thanks, deejah. As for vegan crackers, I think they can be made using the same principles. I haven't tried doing it with vegies but I think it would work if you puree the veggies first and then blend it with the tapioca flour paste. The thing to watch for though is the water content in the veggies. If the veggies have very high water content, might be an idea to squeeze some of the excess water out of the veggies before you blend with the tapioca flour paste, so that you don't have to add so much tapioca flour when making the dough. The aim is to keep the veggie content as high as possible. Let me know if that works.
deejah on February 21, 2013:
This are like the best prawn crackers ever, tried it and your recipe is too good, the best......my friend was wondering if there are vegan crackers
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on December 27, 2012:
You're welcome, Mmm,food is good. Glad you enjoy it!
Mmm,food is good.. on December 27, 2012:
woah,i love this recipe,thank you so much
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on November 20, 2012:
Thank you, lemonkerdz. I didn't realise you couldn't get tapioca flour in Peru. What a shame!
lemonkerdz from LIMA, PERU on November 19, 2012:
thanks for sharin this info. i love prawn crackers shame in peru prawns are too expensive and i can't get tapioca flour. even so love the hub and really good fotos.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on November 03, 2012:
I am delighted that you've had so much pleasure from that recipe.
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on November 03, 2012:
Hello, i have had so many prawn crackers since we last met(: you recipe is so good
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on October 05, 2012:
That should work. Just keep your oven at a very low temperature and leave the door slightly opened so that moisture can escape. Let me know how you go with them!
Maui on October 05, 2012:
Hi I was wondering if i can dry 'em in oven? Thanks.. Can't try to make 'em.
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on August 07, 2012:
Hehe, hope you enjoyed it!:')
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 31, 2012:
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on July 31, 2012:
Why thank you!:)
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 30, 2012:
Love your enthusiasm and enjoyment!
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on July 30, 2012:
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on July 30, 2012:
Same with me! I love them!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 29, 2012:
I always have a supply of them in my fridge, ready to fry when required. :)
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on July 29, 2012:
Hmm.... are they your favourite things to eat? They are mine, for ever!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 28, 2012:
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on July 28, 2012:
Yes, they were very nice:)
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on July 23, 2012:
LOL! Hope you enjoyed them PC PC PC PC, ALERT!
PC PC PC PC, ALERT! on July 23, 2012:
Oooh! I can taste prawns!
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on May 15, 2012:
Hi from Japan, You are welcome! Hope you will try making them!
from Japan on May 15, 2012:
Thanks for sharing it.I couldn't find how to make it in Japanese.
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on April 05, 2011:
Thanks, jojokaya. Glad you enjoyed it. Have you tried making it?
jojokaya from USA on April 04, 2011:
Wow...this is good. My favorite. thanks for sharing it
Foodstuff (author) from Australia on March 08, 2011:
Thanks, Elizabeth. Try making them - you'll never eat commercial crackers again! One batch goes a long way.
elizabeth on March 08, 2011:
Oh my god, what have I been eating all this time!!! these look amazing Foodstuff. And I love that you include all those tips within the recipe