Easy Oriental Part 14 – Tamarind Prawns, a 30 minute flavour sensation.

Tamarind Prawns (10 of 11)Just in time for the Chinese New Year, I could have titled this “Extremely Easy Oriental Part 1”, had I thought about it a bit more. At the risk of paraphrasing Jamie Oliver, this is a 30 minute meal. In this instance, the 30 minutes includes eating time. The star of the dish is the tamarind. On a recent trip back to Ireland, my brother who lives in Dar es Salaam, brought me a supply. Not that Dar is in the Orient. But, it’s easier to find there than here.

The ingredients list is very short but the flavour punch is excellent. In this case, I cooked for two people.

A really short ingredients list but packed with flavours.

A really short ingredients list but packed with flavours.


  • 16 decent sized prawns
  • A clump of tamarind (see the picture)
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 6 to 8 spring onions
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Rice to serve

Side note on flavours: There are a number of strong flavours in this dish. Salty soy. Umami tamarind. Sweet sugar. Sharp lime. They all work in harmony to provide a range of tastes and tanginess. They elevate the prawns taste and bring the rice to life. 

Place the tamarind in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover.

Enough water to cover is all that's needed.

Enough water to cover is all that’s needed.

Stir the tamarind until it turns the water a nice mid brown and thickens up nicely. Sieve the tamarind into a bowl. Chop the spring onions.

The spring onions chopped and the tamarind sauce made.

The spring onions chopped and the tamarind sauce made.

Heat some oil in a wok and add the prawns.

One needs to move fast now or the prawns will overcook. Don't over cook the prawns!

One needs to move fast now or the prawns will overcook. Don’t over cook the prawns!

As soon as they start to turn colour, add the spring onions.

Time is not your friend. stir in the spring onions and get the sugar.

Time is not your friend. stir in the spring onions and get the sugar.

Add the sugar, stir it in and then add the tamarind liquid, soy and a squeeze of lime.

It's wroth saying twice. Don't overcook the prawns!

It’s wroth saying twice. Don’t overcook the prawns!

Once the liquids have combined, serve the prawns over rice, spooning the sauce over so it infuses the rice with lovely flavours. Serve it immediately.

The tamarind, lime, soy and sugar give great flavour diversity.

The tamarind, lime, soy and sugar give great flavour diversity.

If you manage to not overcook the prawns, this dish will be prepared, cooked and eaten inside 30 minutes. It’s the simplest Oriental dish I have cooked in a long time. It’s also one of the tastiest. Spend the little bit of time needed and enjoy a flavour sensation. Happy Chinese New Year!

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Latest comments
  • Beautiful ingredients, Conor. Where’s the pancake? 😉

    • My bad Nick. I’ve been in bed with flu for the week and missed the annual flour and egg festival.

  • Sounds scrumptious. Nice job. 🙂

  • A flavour marriage made in heaven. Tamarind is a seriously under-used ingredients. I keep a jar of the paste in the fridge – it can be transformative in all sorts of dishes.

    • It adds a wonderful mouth puckering flavour to so many dishes. I’m lucky to have the bro’ in Africa. He guarantees my supply.

  • Absolutely brilliant. I always have tamarind paste in the fridge as I love the flavour….all I’m missing is the prawns and the lime and that’s going to change by this evening:)

    • Excellent. Though, this is not a pretty historic comment (sick in bed for the week). I hope you enjoyed it.

  • One can never have too many shrimp recipes. This one looks fantastic.

    • Thanks Gerlinde, glad to have added to the pile.

  • Very nice but what I want is the garlic at the top of the page.

    • Sadly Rosemary, it’s a distant memory at this stage. My garlic choice at present is a) flavourless Chinese
      b) damp smelling and woody tasting French
      c) none at all
      Not a good time of the year.

  • Love shrimp, love tamarind. Smells delicious 😉

    • Thanks. It was very simple to prepare and very flavoursome.

  • Great dish! I looked everywhere to find a substitute for tamarind and there really isn’t a good one. So heads up: you can get tamarind paste in the Halal grocery stores and little Korean stores that are dotted about. If there isn’t one where you live, there will probably be one the next town along! The Halal stores are great for tahina, fresh and sticky dates and great herb and spice mixes and the Korean ones for frozen fish, canned fish (like squid in ink) and spicy plantain sauces too, so it’s hardly a wasted trip!

    • Great advice. The Asian stores here in Dublin are always worth a visit for inspiration and also some mystery ingredients. Always good fun.

  • Looks and sounds great, Conor. Extremely quick and easy indeed. Tamarind is easily available here, but I haven’t used the ‘raw’ version of it yet (because I didn’t know how to use it, so thanks for showing that). Think I may add the prawns after the spring onions to help not overcooking them. The flavors remind me of pad thai.

    • Thanks Stefan and apologies for the delay in replying. I have been ill with the flu virus that is doing the rounds here. There is a bit of the pad thai going on there all right. I should have crushed some peanuts on top. That would have been nice.

      • Sorry to hear that, hope you’re all better now. Flu is around here, too, but I seem to have fended it off so far.

  • Small list of ingredients, but a bit of a balancing act to get the flavours right I find, especially with a smoking hot wok rapidly turning the prawns to rubber. Prep is everything I guess… Great flavours Conor.

    • Thanks Phil, there certainly is no time to hang around on the cooking. Nothing worse than a rubber bullet prawn.

  • Definitely going to try 😊

    • Hi Shanna, there’s no reason to avoid it. Lovely little dish.

  • One of my very favourite flavours . . . am envious of you receiving ‘the real stuff’ : have used both and as can be expected there is a difference methinks . . .

    • I have a bag of “High Quality” concentrate. It lacks the real edge that the original has and, as a result, is hardly worth using. This despite the great copywriting on the bag.

  • Happy Chinese New Year to you, Conor! Beautiful shrimp dish. I never knew you could make tamarind sauce from scratch. Now I know. 🙂

  • Never seen real tamarind at the store! I usually get the pastey clumps of it or a jar of concentrate. I wonder if the flavor is significantly different- do you know? Sounds like a great dish!

    • The strength and depth of flavour of the good stuff is light years ahead of the pastes, in my experience. Still, we have to use what we can, when we can.

  • I picked up a monster rack of pork ribs from our friends in Fenelons Conor just for the New Year that’s in it…no goat though which would have been either fitting or just weird! Great recipe 🙂

    • Thanks Rory. I celebrated the Chinese New Year in bed with the flu. I now need to get cooking some oriental stuff to catch up.

      • Well, this means the year is only gonna be on the up Conor the worst is now behind you!

  • Big THANKS !!!
    I can eat prawns in any form

  • here in Indonesia, we used to skewered tamarind prawn…..
    we used to add kecap manis or sweet soy sauce to balance the tangy tamarind
    this strir fry looks simply damn delicious too!!!

    • Thanks Dedy. I’ll bet they taste just wonderful. That’s a good idea with the sweet soy. I should try it too.

  • I was wondering what had happened to you. Man flu. My oldest has been suffering but I havent got it yet. Im that old I reckon I’ve had every flu and cold you can get.

  • I tried this recipe a few weeks ago & found it rather bland. No fault of Conor’s, it was probably because I used tamarind concentrate as my local speciality store didn’t have fresh tamarind (although they usually do). Being a great fan of Thai cooking it prompted me to try something similar. So I trawled through various online recipes & added some of Conor’s ideas & came up with the following: 1 small eggcupful of tamarind concentrate mixed with 2 of warm water; 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce; 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce; 3 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce; 1 tbsp brown sugar; 4 cloves of garlic, minced; 3 tbsp lime juice; 8 spring onions; 1 red pepper; 2 kaffir lime leaves (as they were temporarily out of stock in our local speciality store, I cadged them from a local restaurant whose owner has his own kaffir lime tree). Our local ‘pescaderia’ supplied 16 raw ‘Gambon Argentinos’ (very large prawns), which I marinated in a mixture of the above (less the spring onions). A few tbsp fulls of good olive oil in the pan, good & hot, & added the prawns & marinade together. Threw in the spring onions & two minutes later the prawns were cooked. The Resident Restaurant Critic was enthusiastic, said it was full of flavour. I really enjoyed it & think the flavours could be further refined with a bit of experimenting. But that is what cooking is all about. My love of Thai food comes from the many years when we were regular patrons of the late lamented Diep Le Shaker restaurant in Pembroke Lane in Dublin which we frequented from the time it opened in the late 90s until it closed a few years ago. Great memories of their (by invitation only) Thai New Year lunch parties which lasted all day & half the night. Aaah, those were the days when the Celtic Tiger was in full voice, before it all ended in tears, as some of us foretold, & we came back down to earth. We enjoyed it while it lasted, like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. But I digress … the food there was superb, the flavours so delicate & well balanced … my own attempts to replicate their cooking is but a pale shadow … Sic transit gloria mundi.

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