You Bao Xia

Oil-Exploded Prawns

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as Part of a Chinese Meal, or 2 as a Single Dish.

Appears in

I enjoyed this austere but elegant dish at Shanghai’s Lao Fandian restaurant. It is usually made with unpeeled freshwater prawns that almost literally “explode” when they come into contact with the very hot oil in the wok. Quick cooking and light seasonings preserve and enhance the natural flavours of the prawns. Native freshwater prawns may be difficult to find, as they are not widely available commercially and the giant Asian varieties are only rarely imported. Fortunately, saltwater varieties, whether native or imported, are a good substitute.


  • 450 g/1 lb medium-sized raw prawns with shells but without heads, or 350-375 g/12-13 oz peeled, raw prawns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 teaspoons water


If the prawns are unpeeled, peel them by removing their shells, legs, and tails. Devein them by making a surface cut down the back of the prawns and removing the black, green, or yellow matter with the point of the knife or cleaver. Rinse them well under cold running water and pat them thoroughly dry with kitchen paper. Rub the prawns evenly with salt and cornflour.

Heat a wok or large frying pan until hot and add the oil. Put in the prawns and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Add the rice wine or sherry, stir, and then pour in the cornflour mixture and continue to stir-fry another 2 minutes. Serve at once.