Hot and Sour Prawns


Like many of their Asian neighbours, the Thais have a five-flavour system: sweet, sour, bitter (chilli), hot and salty. Hot and sour are thus among the flavours one finds recurring in Thai cuisine. Perhaps it is because of the tropically humid climate that the touch of sourness is a welcome refreshing counterpoint to the ‘hot’ and the bitter, especially of chillies. In any event, the combination is delectable, as in this recipe.

This easy dish can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. Serve it with rice and a salad.


  • 450 g (1 lb) raw prawns
  • 1–2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2–3 large fresh red or green Thai chillies, seeded and sliced
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
  • handful fresh basil 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.

Combine the curry paste, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chillies and coconut milk in a wok or large pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the prawns and cook for another 2–3 minutes. Finally, add the basil leaves and serve at once.