Sweet and Sour Prawns

A Chinese classic, you say? Well, yes and no. This is certainly a dish introduced by southern Chinese immigrants into Thailand. But, like other Chinese originals, this one too has been transformed by local spices and flavourings into a Thai speciality.


  • 450 g (1 lb) raw prawns
  • 225 g (8 oz) cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 110 g (4 oz) red or green pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • tablespoons groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
  • tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour, blended with 1 tablespoon water


  • handful fresh coriander leaves


Peel the prawns and discard the shells. Using a small sharp knife, remove the fine digestive cord. Wash the prawns in cold water with 1 tablespoon of salt, then rinse well and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Peel the cucumber, slice in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Then cut the cucumber halves into 2.5 cm (1 in) cubes. Sprinkle well with the salt and put in a colander for 20 minutes to drain. This rids the cucumber of any excess liquid. When the cucumber cubes have been drained, rinse them in water and then squeeze any excess moisture from them in a linen kitchen cloth. Set aside. Seed the pepper and dice into 2.5 cm (1 in) squares, and slice the onion.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and sliced onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the cucumber and pepper and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Now add the prawns, fish sauce, light soy sauce, rice wine, tomato paste, lime juice and sugar, and then slowly drizzle in the cornflour mixture. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn onto a platter, garnish with the coriander leaves and serve immediately.