Crispy Prawn and Ham Balls

The magic of the wok makes this delightful treat easy to prepare and to serve. It performs admirably as a delicious starter, but it can as easily be served by itself or with a salad as a light lunch. Inspired by the prawn appetizers served in dim sum speciality restaurants, I have added here a touch of ham and lemon zest for an East-West variation. For maximum enjoyment, these easy-to-make treats should be cooked at the last minute and served immediately.

If you use fresh water chestnuts, you will need about 225 g (8 oz) unpeeled weight.


For the Prawn Mixture

  • 350 g (12 oz) raw prawns
  • 100 g (4 oz) tinned water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 100 g (4 oz) Parma ham, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons spring onions, white part only, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Cornflour, for dusting
  • 600 ml (1 pint) groundnut oil


Peel the prawns and, if you are using large, uncooked ones, remove the fine digestive cord. Wash the prawns and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Using a cleaver or sharp knife, chop the prawns coarsely and then mince them finely into a paste. Put the paste into a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients for the prawn mixture. Or, alternatively, you could do this in a food processor. This step can be done hours in advance, but you should then wrap the paste well in cling film and put it into the fridge until you need it.

Using your hands, form the mixture into 4-cm (-in) balls about the size of a golf ball. Continue until you have used up all the paste. Dust the balls in cornflour, shaking off any excess.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or wok to a moderate heat. Deep-fry several prawn balls at a time for about 3–5 minutes or until they are golden. Repeat the process until they are all cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and serve at once.