Freshwater Prawns in Tomalley and Shrimp Paste

The Good:

First of all, THANK YOU so very much for all your wonderful and engaging comments on my last post. It’s really great to know that I’m not the only one feeling those feelings about blogging, and it felt really good to get it out. There’s just one last thing I want to get off my mind and I promise, no more blogging complaining from me.

“Comments”, is it an evil word? It can be if you go about it the wrong way. It took me quite some time into blogging until I finally learned to let go of the “comment game”. I now only comment cause I want to, not because I feel I have to.  I’m sure a lot of you have seen me comment on your blogs even though you have not commented on mine every time I post. The truth is, I don’t comment to get a comment in return. I’m there because I really love reading your blogs. So thank you to those of you who continue to visit me (even if you don’t comment), I really do appreciate it. I believe commenting can be a great way to get to know the blogger. And if you’re like me and am there to learn, ask questions. Most bloggers will be happy to answer your questions.I’ve actually made some sincere friendships through blogging and commenting.  All right, that’s it, that’s the last of blogging complaining you’ll hear from me (at least for a while).

The Bad:

Yup, that’s my shattered iPhone. Had it in my shirt pocket, bent down to help L put on his shoes and the next thing I know, my phone is on the floor. The dumb thing was that I had just taken off the invisible shield too… ARGH!!!!! So I put plastic wrap on it hoping to hold it together till I can get it fixed or get a new one.

And The Yummy:

Now onto something that always makes me happy, SEAFOOD! I’m a huge seafood lover, so when my Mom makes any kind of seafood dish, I watch her like a hawk and I try to learn. The problem with learning recipes from my Mom is that she never uses exact measurements. When I ask her how much of a specific ingredient she puts in, she always replies with, “”Just add in however much you want and then taste it.” That drives me nuts. Anyone else have this problem? Anyways, here is another dish I learned at my parents’ house but haven’t had time to post until now.

Freshwater Prawns in Tomalley and Shrimp Paste:

We used large freshwater prawns . There were about eight frozen prawns in this box. 

Warning: If you’re squeamish about “dissecting” a prawn, you may want to scroll past the next 5 or 6 pictures. 

Each prawn was about the size of my palm.

These guys were already frozen, dead and defrosted, or else I would never have the guts to do what my Dad is about to do. Plus it would just be inhumane.

Start by cutting diagonally downward away from the body at the top of the pointy blade on the prawn.

This pouch you see inside the head, that’s what you’ll want to discard. That’s the waste bag.

Peel the shell off of the rest of the head that’s still attached to the body. Under that, you’ll find this orange stuff, which is the prawn tomalley. If you’ve seen or heard of people sucking the heads of shrimps/prawns (I know, it sounds gross), this is exactly what they’re trying to get out. This is probably the most cherished part of the prawn. Another one of those either you love it or you hate it things. I love it.

Squeeze out the tomalley into a bowl and set aside for later use.

Use a pair of sharp scissors and trim off the front legs.

Once the legs have been trimmed off, peel off the shell from the body.

We left the shell of the tails on for better appearance. You can definitely peel them off if you prefer to. Next, cut a slit down the middle of the back of the body and devein. Repeat with the rest of the prawns.  We also added some shrimp to this dish.

Heat up a wok on high heat. Wait until wok is HOT and add in oil. Once oil is hot, add in garlic. As the garlic is just about to brown, add in prawns. 

Sprinkle a dash of sugar on each prawn and shrimp. Flip and leave to brown for about a minute per side. Add in sesame oil. Give prawns a toss.  

Add in tomalley, shrimp paste, and fish sauce. Give prawns a couple more tosses to mix up the ingredients.

This is the shrimp paste my parents used.

I prefer this brand: (the small can out in front). I find it more flavorful as it has garlic and different spices mixed in. You should be able to get shrimp paste from any Asian grocery store.

Both shrimp pastes have quite a bit of oil in them so if you want, you can leave out the sesame oil or use less of it. Here’s mine and the kiddies’ dish of prawns.

My parents continued with their share and added a dish of leftover belly pork that they had the day before. 

Trust me, you don’t want to be eating this every day. Once in a while I think is okay though. Look at that pork.

I have to admit, their dish does look much better than mine.

Sorry I don’t have exact measurements, but that’s the way my mom cooks. Next time I try this on my own, I’ll get exact measurements. I’d probably also use onions to add more flavor to the dish.

We’re off to beautiful Vancouver with our guests from Vietnam for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Vancouver is one of my favorite Canadian cities to visit, especially for the food. I’ll catch up with all your blogs when I get back because a true vacation to me is time spent with my family not having to worry about anything but eating…teeeheee. I hope all my Canadian readers (and anyone else celebrating Thanksgiving next week) have a very Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy quality time with your family.

If you like seafood, what’s your favorite seafood? I LOVE lobster! Before I leave, I just want to mention that one of my favorite bloggers, Lynn over at The Actor’s Diet has just opened up her new online store with some pretty cool merchandise. The talented artwork on those merchandise were created by Cindy K. Shaw, a fellow blogger and very talented artist over at Miscellaneous Musings.  That’s it for this week, until next time, friends and family :-D.


37 Responses to “Freshwater Prawns in Tomalley and Shrimp Paste”

  1. 1 A Canadian Foodie October 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for the lesson – I still have the prawns I bought with you – time to get them out for Thanksgiving now that I have a great recipe… I will have to taste the tamalley, and then decide whether to use your sauce, or not. I usually like roe or caviar, but I detest lobster tamalley. ANy seafood is my favourtie. DId I say I appreciate the lesson? I don’t mind not having exact measurements. I get it… and I know how to devein and peel shrimp – but the heads are new for me, so this was really valuable. Have fun in Vancouver! Who is visiting you?
    I love that city, too!!!

    • 2 luvtoeat October 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      Hey Valerie,

      Oh, if you don’t like lobster heads, you may not like shrimp heads. They’re quite similar tasting. My brother’s in-laws and some of their family are visiting from Vietnam. We’ve already taken them to Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary. Now we’re hitting Vancouver. Also visiting my in-laws there too. Busy busy! Hope all is well with you. Looks like you’re keeping your foodie self busy as well 😀

  2. 3 MaryMoh October 8, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Oh LeQuan…this is a killing dish for me! I LOVE prawns and looking at he ingredients, I want the whole plate for myself! Never mind if you say I’m greedy…haha 😀 So sorry that your iphone is cracked. Hope it can be repaired. Thanks very much for all your lovely comments on my blog. I always enjoy reading them 😀 Appreciate very much. I’m really glad that you have found a balance in blogging and commenting. Blogging is fun when we strike a balance. Otherwise it becomes a chore and a bore. Please take care. Hope your back is feeling better.

  3. 4 denise @ quickies on the dinner table October 8, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Oh! I didn’t know that’s what you call it! In our house, we call if prawn brains LOL Tomalley sounds much nicer 😀

    I am sorry about your phone 😦 The same thing happened to my 16 year old (same phone) except that he stepped on it – imagine all 65 kgs of him coming down on all that pretty, THIN glass!!! 😛

    I love all kinds of seafood but I think mussels and squid are my favourites. I actually do like lobster but once got so ill after eating lobster in a restaurant during my second pregnancy,that I had to be hospitalised for almost a week. That kinda ruined lobster for me *shudder* Those freshwater prawns are really delicious though. We call them “udang gala” over here, which means bamboo pole prawns. Go figure!

    My grandma used to cook like that all the time LOL She and mum used to bicker about it when I was little – it was pretty funny watching both of them in the kitchen together 😀

    Hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy Vancouver!

    • 5 luvtoeat October 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      Hey Denise,

      I used to call it shrimp/lobster brains too. Let’s just say I’ve learned a lot through food blogging :-D.

      I hope your son was able to fix his phone. I was so mad when mine broke cause I do a lot of stalking…er…I mean blogging on there 😉

      Bamboo pole prawns? Hmm…I wonder why. Interesting, thanks for sharing that with me.

      Hope you and your family have a lovely weekend.

  4. 6 anncoo October 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Lequan, do you know that prawns is my FAVORITE TOO!! I remember when I was a little girl and watched my grandma cook in the kitchen, she just told me to add a bit of this and a little of that..and I am sure she don’t know what is measuring spoon!..hahaa

  5. 7 Light Delight with Tou Tou October 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    is it prawn or small lobster???? It is HUGE!!!! especially it’s head , LOL. I remember my mom bought this size praw once, and I was so stuffed after two of them! I am sure it is extremely prawn-ish!

  6. 8 Stella October 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Hey LeQuanis,
    Your Mom’s shrimp looks so awesome, and I can see that she is not afraid to fry (smile)! Oh, and that’s so nice that you did instructional pictures. I always want to do that, but I don’t have anyone around that’s good at taking photos. So it just never happens:(
    Oh, and you are totally comment obsessed, Babe;-) It’s funny b/c I really am like that about my photos. I even had a few bloggers write me about it reminding me why I blog in the first place, and they are right! If it makes you feel better though, I’ve noticed some people don’t comment on my blog. I think some people see that it has a lot of vegan items, and the truth is some people have a lot of disdain towards vegans and vegetarians. So I’ve noticed some people visit and leave quickly and some stay around forever. Can’t make everybody happy. You know?
    Okay, well, I hope you guys have a great time in Vancouver. Stay away from the computer (smile)!
    p.s.Me loves shrimp-it’s my favorite.

    • 9 luvtoeat October 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

      Hey Stalla,

      Yup, my Mom’s definitely not afraid to fry :-D. I’m still trying to work up the guts to try your deep fried tofu recipe.

      I don’t think you need to worry too much about your photos, they’re always so perfect. And you have the coolest dishes and props. I really love that red ribbon that you like to use. It really adds a lot of life to the photos and somewhat gives it a mystical look too.

      I really prefer vegetarian food over meat dishes, but I know I wouldn’t be able to go full vegan or vegetarian. I crave my steak or burger if I haven’t had it for a while. Haha “some stay forever”, did you add that in just for me? Lol.

      Hope you and Cauldron boy have a great weekend!

      • 10 Stella October 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

        Hey LeQuanis, hope you’re having fun right now…
        Yeah, I crave some things still too, so I don’t like to label myself as a vegan or vegetarian or anything really (smile)! I just try to eat that way mostly and then when I want some shrimp, I eat some. Oh, and I still want a hamburger every once in a while, but I always find some vegetarian way to counter the craving. I’m just not going to give up my shrimp-me loves it. I know burgers are my Mom’s weakness though.
        Okay, well, hope you guys are relaxing…
        Yours Forever and Ever (smile & not trying to be a stalker),

    • 11 luvtoeat October 9, 2010 at 12:34 am

      Oops. I’m so sorry Stella, just realized that I spelled your name wrong in my first reply. What the heck was I smoking? Lol.

  7. 12 Leah @ Why Deprive? October 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    The finished product sounds amazing, but there is NO way I would be able to make it myself. Im just not that brave. 🙂

    Have fun in Vancouver! 🙂

    Oh, and Im so sorry about your phone! I would be absolutely devastated.

  8. 13 Ameena October 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I have never seen such enormous prawns! They look a bit intimidating – I can’t say that I’d be brave enough to cut them up and cook them. 🙂 Great looking dish though LeQuan!

    I love how honest you are about the commenting thing – I agree. I only comment when I really want to and things are so busy that I’ve had to stop commenting every day. I still read blogs constantly but there is no way I can comment unless I somehow find another 3 hours in each day.

    Have a great time in Vancouver! I love it there too. I’ve been once and I can still remember what a great trip it was. Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. 14 Anna Johnston October 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving LeQuan 🙂

    I only just learnt this week that Canada & US have different dates they celebrate Thanksgiving, there’s got to be a story in that huh!
    Wonderful photo tutorial on the big prawns lady, gotta say, its one of my least fave jobs cleaning up shellfish, but so, so worth it. I love learning traditional dishes like you’ve given us. I’m like your Mom (sort of guestimate a lot of recipes & I taste all the way through), but my brother is a measurer (don’t tell him I said so, but he’s a better chef for it too…, his dishes always turn out perfectly ‘right’ whereas mine always taste great…, just maybe not so much ‘the same’); so lots of good reasons to follow the recipe to the letter if you want a consistent product.
    Have a fabulous holiday, take lots of pics & eat till your (almost) bursting the seams 🙂

  10. 15 Magic of Spice October 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Great tutorial on prepping prawns…and great recipe 🙂 Have a wonderful and safe trip…Happy Thanksgiving to you 🙂

    P.S. Regarding the comments thing, I have heard quite a bit recently about it…people commenting to get return comments. I try to always leave a comment when I am reading blogs I follow, but I can not read all of them everyday.
    After awhile I think you can tell who’s who 🙂

  11. 16 Lazaro October 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm


    See this is the kind of thing that sometimes people have to be lead kicking and screaming toward. There is so much flavor in the heads of shrimp. But it really is a disagreeable thing to do for most to suck the juice out the head.

    Thanks for bringing this out for the newbies. Love the dish. Obviously…

  12. 17 Pachecopatty October 8, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Hey LeQuan, This was quite the operation, to get the goodies out of the shrimp, I’ve never seen this done before so thanks for sharing something new to me. I think learning and being open to new things is one of the things I love about reading food blogs and your blog does not disappoint:) I see where you get your love of cooking, your parents are pretty handy in the kitchen and produce some delicious dishes, I’m sure:) Sorry about your phone, sometimes they are just not in the right place, whoops!

  13. 18 actorsdiet October 8, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    wow that is quite a lesson in prawns! sorry to hear about your iphone. i would die. thanks for the shoutout to my store!

  14. 19 Monet October 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Your poor Iphone…I constantly drop/lose/smash my phone, so I’ve had to replace mine quite a few times (thus the reason I don’t have an Iphone). Thank you so much for the detailed prawn lesson…I did get a bit squeamish, but the end result looks so yummy that I think I could handle the less appetizing part. Thank you for sharing so honestly about your feelings…your blog is such a refreshing place to visit. I always eagerly await your posts, love!

  15. 20 tigerfish October 9, 2010 at 10:38 am

    You know what? I don’t know about this name tomalley but I do know I enjoy sucking the prawn head and tail :O …spells deliciousness to me. And I know there are big chefs around the house when I see chopsticks as the cooking tool in a wok! Yesss!

  16. 21 sophia October 10, 2010 at 12:03 am

    gosh. This dish is SO Asian: deceivingly simple to make, ugly to see, but FREAKING good to eat…and best of all, NO measurements! I’m sick of exact recipes! Cooking is not a science!

    Anyway. So sorry abt your iphone! Do you have insurance for a free phone or reduced price or something?

    • 22 luvtoeat October 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

      I totally understand the “no exact measurements” thing, I don’t cook with exact measurements either. But what I mean is, when I’m learning her dishes, she COULD at least give me some kind of measurements. Yup, I’m slow like that :-D.

      Don’t even get me started on my phone. No coverage for something like that. Argh!

  17. 23 Cooking Gallery October 10, 2010 at 6:35 am

    The prawns look so incredibly tasty…!!! I adore prawns, especially with hot chili sauce 🙂

  18. 24 Chef Dennis October 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Hi LeQuan

    those prawn look so very very good!! I love the sauce you made for them, it must have seriously cranked up the flavor! Your mom must be a great cook, I would watch her all the time!!! I’m not big on killing things either, I prefer to let the prep people do it…lol…some chef, huh!
    Thanks for sharing this delightful dish with us, and thank you for all the wonderful comments you always leave for me, I do look forward to them!


  19. 25 Cindy October 11, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Hey Girl!! Thanks for the mention!! I’m kind of with your mom when it comes to measuring. I use the palm of my hand and taste most of the time, unless I’m baking.

    This dish (both versions) looks seriously yummy! Great that you left the shells on the tails cause that makes for some nice crunchy bits. I think I need to start “printing” your posts as reminder to give these a run for myself! Did I say YUM?

  20. 26 Krista October 11, 2010 at 11:52 am

    SO sorry about your phone!!! Grrr. That must be very frustrating. 😦 Your prawns dish looks AMAZING though. Oh, how delicious. 🙂

  21. 27 5 Star Foodie October 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    This is a terrific recipe for my new wok! The prawns are gorgeous! And I love your sauce!

  22. 28 serena October 12, 2010 at 3:55 am

    ah yes. the no measurement, measurement. A little of this and that, it’s up to you – you’re eating it. Drives me crazy too.

  23. 29 Kelsey October 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    death to the prawns!! haha. they sure look gorgeous..well post cooking ❤ ❤

  24. 30 Biren @ Roti n Rice October 13, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I didn’t know that orange stuff in the head of the prawn is called tomalley. I have these kinds of prawns and they are really tasty. These days I limit myself because of the cholesterol.

    Have a great time in Vancouver. It is a fun city to visit. Definitely lots to eat and see.

  25. 31 Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron October 15, 2010 at 12:48 am

    those are huge prawns!! i know exactly what you mean by sucking out that part of the head. it’s so delicious espeically fresh off the grill! i’m sorry about the iphone..get the iphone 4 LeQuan! 😀

    Anyway, i wanted to say hi before i leave. Hi LeQuan! 😀

  26. 32 Jessie October 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Yum yum YUM! I must not be squeamish because those prawns look dee-licious! I’m not sure if I’ve ever had actual prawns before because those shrimpies are HUGE! Or are they shrimp? Or do they taste like shrimp? And I must know – what do the heads taste like?? I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the courage to try them myself … me and my weak tum 😛 I used to wat the tomalley of lobster all the time when we used to take family trips to Maine and I loved it! I haven’t had it in ages, though, since the lobster around here isn’t as fresh (and they’re $$$!). We don’t have that brand of shrimp paste (I think we have some other can), so I’ll have to look for your fav next time we’re at the Asian grocery.

    Also, I have to say that I’m thrilled to see the variety of food you’re introducing to K and L while they’re little. They’re going to grow up having extensive, sophisticated palates, having learned to appreciate many flavors while they were young. Well done, LeeQs!!

    I hope you had a great trip to Vancouver! Happy Thanksgiving!

    P.S. Sorry to hear about the iPhone 😦 Those screens are so delicate! I’ll cross my fingers that a new iPhone magically “falls” into your lap at some point 😉

    • 33 lequan October 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Omg, I’m so late at replying to this (blush). In my opinion, prawns taste like shrimp, just really big shrimpies :-D. And if you’ve had lobster tomalley then shrimp/prawn heads don’t taste that much different. I must admit though, it’s so yummy (to me at least) but super high in cholesterol. Then again, I just totally forgot, look who I’m talking to. I’m sure you know much more about nutrition than moi ;-).

      I’d have to say, my kiddies do eat a lot more variety of foods than I do. Gary and I have our picky things, but we feed the kids EVERYTHING. Just cause I don’t eat certain things doesn’t mean I should deprive my kids of them as well, right? I just wished all parents could see that side of thinking.

      Hope you’re having a great start to your week, Jessie! Huge hug! 😀

  27. 34 sophia October 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    So have you gotten your phone fixed yet?

    though…that is not why I’m here…wheee! Double comment!
    I just read that you replied to my earlier comment…I didn’t realize it until now. Hee hee, I drive my friend Mimi nuts too. I’m like a dictator in the kitchen, I do things and never measure and she just cannot replicate it herself…which is also why she usually just keeps me entertained while I cook. Heh, so sorry, Lequan, I empathize more with your mom, but I’m pretty sure Mimi will empathize with you!

    Wait, I’m getting side-tracked. I think my mind is just throbbing with all kinds of emotions right now. The biggest thing is GRATITUDE. I started to sniffle again when I saw how you stood up for me on the DT website.

    Lequan, thank you, thank you, thank you. Ah, I sound like a broken record, but how else can I show you how utterly touched I am to you? That your words, was a huge, HUGE lift off my shoulders, that it reconfirmed everything I know intellectually to real emotions and truth.

    I wish you were here. I really wish you lived close by, so I can visit you and constantly bother you with fresh-baked goods and homecooked dishes. But since you insist on living so far away, all I can do right now…is get on my knees, and thank God, thank you, for the beautiful, wonderful, blessful friendship and empathy I have in you.

    Last word, I swear: LEQUAN ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. 35 Biren @ Roti n Rice October 17, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Hey LeQuan, I have already left a comment earlier but I wanted to let you know that I have an award waiting for you at my blog. Do come soon to check it out 🙂

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