Although this dish is now popular in Hong Kong, I believe it to be a Westernized Chinese invention. Prawns lend themselves to many cooking techniques, including steaming and deep-frying, as used to make prawns balls in dim sum menus, and making prawn paste stuffing for fish or vegetables. But to combine prawns with toast is, to me, a uniquely Western idea.
That being said, the dish is popular, tasty and easy to make. The small amount of fatty pork included adds richness and enhances the other flavours; the dry bread absorbs the oils and spices. Perhaps the dish was invented by frugal Chinese-American chefs with stale bread on hand – much the way ‘French toast’, or pain perdu, evolved.
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients for the prawn paste and process until they are just blended. A bit of texture in the paste is desirable.
Trim any crust from the bread and cut it into 7.5 × 2.5 cm (
Heat a wok or deep pan until it is hot. Pour in the groundnut oil and, when the oil is hot, turn the heat to moderate and deep-fry the prawn toasts, paste side down, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Regulate the temperature from time to time so that the oil does not get too hot. Then turn them over and fry on the other side for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve at once.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.