Pan-fried Butter & Garlic Prawns

Pan-fried Butter & Garlic Prawns

We live in a tiny, sleepy village called Canewdon. When two cars have driven through the high street it has been a very busy day. The closest city, Southend-on-Sea, is twenty minutes’ drive away. More correctly, it is a seaside town that has been described as “interesting” by a fellow South African. Others, including me, are less polite. Once you’ve seen the beauty of South African coastal towns like Knysna, it is very difficult to find a place that can compete.

Close to the main shopping centre in Southend I discovered a hidden treasure. The pavement is dirty and empty, the houses worn down and tired-looking. It’s the rough end of town and I wouldn’t dare to walk down there at night. It is arguably the crummiest street in Southend but yet I love it to bits. There isn’t an ounce of pretentiousness in the area. Away from the chain shops with their sparkly windows, it possesses an almost anti-social personality yelling “Take me or leave me, I don’t care!”, though I’m sure it will be even ruder if it could talk. A Chinese shop is based there. When you step in the shop you’re teleported to another world, you might as well be in the Far East.

If you rummage through the freezer compartments you will come across boxes of prawns. I’m not talking about those tiny prawns supermarkets sell that taste like cardboard. They’re big; you can even get king-sized ones if you like. Since then I’ve never looked back. Whenever I need a prawn-fix, I know where to go.

The recipe below is quick to make. You may notice that the prawns are first cleaned out and then cooked in their shells, ensuring maximum flavour. Serve on a bed of rice with a glass of white wine and imagine you’re bathing in the warm South African sun overlooking the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. I know I do.

Pan-fried Butter & Garlic Prawns

Pan-fried Butter & Garlic Prawns
Serves 1
Preparation: 15 mins – Cooking: 4 mins
  • 10 whole shell-on prawns, weighing about 400g (1 lb)
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) butter
  • rock salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  1. With a sharp knife, score down the back of the shrimp. Remove the thin, digestive tract with the tip of the knife. Repeat with the rest of the prawns. Rinse the prawns under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Melt the butter and generously grind salt in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and prawns, and fry over a high heat, stirring, for 3 – 4 minutes until the prawns are pink. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
  • To serve more people, simply multiply the ingredients accordingly.

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  1. Ann Hawley says

    Hi Michelle
    I googled South Africans in Southend and your very interesting website came up! I’ll definitely try the Chinese shop in York Road!
    The reason for my search is to find other South Africans / Namibians / Zims to arrange a get-together for the better weather in the new year.
    Are you interested in meeting other South Africans?
    Kind regards

  2. Shelagh says

    Im definately going to track this shop down. Im dying for some decent prawns. I want to laugh when I see the word ‘prawns’ on a menu because what you get are shrimps.

    I am most definately interested in meeting other South Africans. I live in Rochford. How do we go about it?

    • fred says

      YES that is so TRUE….for over 15 years I’ve said the same. don’t shops and resturants know between prawns and shrimps????
      Go to south India, they are the best

  3. says

    Whoa, more South Africans!

    I need a prawn-fix again, so I’ll have to visit the Chinese shop soon. You’re right about the menus with their “prawns”. When Americans say “shrimps”, they actually mean prawns though. Quite confusing.

  4. James says

    Ag Ja, how did you end up there anyway?? Anyway for you Saffa prawn addicts in London try Sheperds Bush market. They are not farmed and huge!! Just add garlic, chili, corriander and little ginger and butter and then swicth on the rugby!

  5. Charles says

    Hi y’all. I am a Rhodie/South African who misses home and our wonderful food big time. I now live in Houston but can not get garlic butter prawns as you can guess. I am glad to find your recipe and will cetainly try it. Found another one a while back but it was not very good, but yours looks just like we used to get in Salisbury and of course Pretoria, CT and Joburg.
    Sleep warm y’all.

  6. Chris says

    This is amazing – I look up a garlic prawn recipe and the first one that comes up is from a local!
    I know what you mean about Southend – it’s not the best, but I’ll check out that shop in York Road and who knows what other goodies I’ll find.

    If you want a more charming place to buy prawns, make a trip over to Leigh-on-Sea(Old Town)- there’s a Fisherman’s Co-op on Bell Wharf where they sell all sorts of seafood, all freshly caught and not too expensive. There’s also a chip shop nearby to make the trip complete.
    I’m an Aussie and need a prawn-fix fairly often too.

  7. Drew says

    I’m also a saffa who really enjoys sea food and a braai is not complete without decent tiger prawns for me .

    For those saffa’s who are london based like me I can highlly recommend the fishmongers in borough market as they have a very good selection of prawns and other sea food at decent prices with practiclly any size of prawn Your looking for right up to indonesian tiger giants . I’ve also found that though pricey the quality of the meat at the ginger pig butchery which is also at that market is exceptionally good and is one of the few places You can get Tbone from 😀

  8. kate says

    Howzit!!!! I lived in the UK for about 3 years before coming back to sunny South Africa. We went to Mediterranean Fish market yesterday and bought a big box of prawns – the big juicy south african kind! It’s weird to be home this christmas, swimming and braaing and about to put a few prawns onto the skottle!!

  9. Duncan gohl says

    Sadly you haven’t been to Knysna lately…….
    Run down and a pot smokers haven.
    Most of the houses on the Eastern Heads are for sale.
    Very sad as it was our hometown.


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