Thai Spot Prawn Ceviche Recipe [Video]


Growing up in Hong Kong, I remember weaving through the wet-market with my grandmother. I was fascinated by how she interacted with the live seafood and poultry before she brought them home. While many people would avoid touching or even seeing their food alive, my grandmother (among many other smart shoppers) would have physical contact or even a test of strength with their food before purchase.

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It is the vendor’s job to prove how lively their daily specials are. They retrieve fish from the tank with a net to show how hard they fight and struggle. Contrarily, the “floaters” would be fished out immediately and sold for cheap. Generally, the feistier the crustacean is, the more likely it will be selected. Squawking and fluttering chicken are examined closely before slaughter. The purchases are killed before the customer to demonstrate that the merchant does not swap the live one for a dead one out back.

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Whole animals represent wholeness and togetherness in the Chinese culture so whole fish, whole chicken, and whole pigs are often served during special occasions. With seafood as my primary source of protein, I am delighted when I see the heads still intact. I am never squeamish about looking my food in the face. Are you?




Spot Prawns

During Spot Prawn season, Vancouverites are bombarded by them on restaurant menus, at the market, and there is even a festival devoted to them. The Spot Prawn is local to the Pacific Coast of B.C. and according to BC Seafood, the harvest season is only 80 days short so these little darlings cannot be passed up. Local restaurateurs present them in a kaleidoscope of preparations but personally, I love them simply raw with the heads deep-fried, paired with some cold sake.

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Help! I can see my detached body!

I shared a refreshing Thai dressing recipe earlier and what better way to demonstrate its versatility than through a Spot Prawn Ceviche. Although you may not suck the heads live, it is essential to purchase live prawns and prepare them as soon as possible. Swiftly remove the head from the body in one motion, then shell and de-vein the body. Either deep-fry the heads and eat them whole or save them for stock if you haven’t acquired the ways of enjoying head.

The toasted rice powder provides a clean, nutty, toasty aroma that lingers in the nasal cavity. You can find the simple instructions here.

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Many varieties of fresh seafood can substitute spot prawns in this recipe and I suggest to use what is locally available. Ideas: scallops, octopus, mackerel, sea bass, shrimp…

Thai Spot Prawn Ceviche


2 lbs. live spot prawns, shelled, de-veined, and cut into 1/2″ pieces
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. palm sugar
1 tbs. fish sauce
2 small shallots, diced finely
1 Thai chili, de-seeded and minced
1 small Japanese cucumber, diced into 1/4″ pieces
1 small bunch fresh mint, chiffonade
1 small bunch fresh basil, chiffonade
1 1/2 tbs. toasted rice powder

Sesame seeds
Rice crackers


Combine all of ingredients except the cucumber in a large, non-reactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until the prawns turn opaque. Drain off the excess liquid, combine the cucumber, and refrigerate for an additional 15 minutes.

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Serve cold on rice crackers. Garnish with sesame seeds.

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Glad that’s over. Just imagine how difficult it was to word this post without sounding pervy.

  1. July 21, 2009 by thesophisticatedgourmet

    Okay, figured out this comment thing… LOL This recipe is too good! Now I want some. I don’t normally eat too much seafood, but this is an exception. And you are probably one of the coolest ppl that I know to be sucking the head of a live shrimp! You rock!

  2. July 22, 2009 by Alta

    This looks SO delicious. I must make this soon. Your photos are great too, and great presentation.

  3. July 22, 2009 by Mathilde's Cuisine

    WOW, looks brilliant and congrats for the video! :-)

  4. July 22, 2009 by Snap Wilson

    I think I’m in love. You should replace your corner picture with a still from that video.

  5. July 22, 2009 by zenchef

    What?.. PETA didn’t leave a comment yet? :)

    I couldn’t sleep last night after watching that video. If you get your own show on national TV and do that kind of stuff.. err.. i’ll be watching!

  6. July 22, 2009 by rose

    This looks absolutely delicious!

    I love all kinds of ceviche. Love the Thai twist on it. Kudos to you for the live shrimp head. I’ve only eaten them in Japanese restaurants as a part of an amebi order (raw sweet shrimp) usually finishes with fried whole shrimp heads. Yum.

    Great presentation & photos.

  7. July 22, 2009 by My Food and Life Encounters

    I want to make ceviche so bad! But my husband told me it makes him nervous and he won’t try it!! :(
    Let me just say, the video is insane and your ceviche is absolutely beautiful.

  8. July 22, 2009 by _ts-eatingclubvancouver

    “Help! I can see my detached body!”

    Hahahaha… that’s the funniest thing. =D

  9. July 22, 2009 by Cookin' Canuck

    This dish is stunning and you are absolutely adorable!

  10. July 23, 2009 by sizzlechef

    Simply Delicious ! Thank you for sharing. Cheers !

  11. July 23, 2009 by Steve Powell

    I was looking for a geoduck seviche recipe and then I found your blog … after meeting you at Foodportunity last night in Seattle. If I had thought ahead I would have invited you to go along geoduck digging today!

  12. July 23, 2009 by Diana

    You are way too cute and gutsy!! My family in Spain is the same way with buying fresh seafood and meats! They love to suck shrimp heads and fish heads for that matter! They say it’s the best part! Love the post and video :)

  13. July 23, 2009 by Stephen

    I like the heads deep fried! that might be nice next to that cool aromatic ceviche.

  14. July 24, 2009 by Mel (admin)

    @ Steve: Geoduck is my favourite shellfish, hands down. I would LOVE to go dig some time!!

  15. July 24, 2009 by French Cooking for Dummies

    Wow! This looks amazing! Congrats on making it to the top 9 ;-)

  16. July 25, 2009 by alice

    Dang girl, you are crazy! Your dish loves lovely.. sound perfect right now. BTW, aren’t you afraid the shrimp will hurt you??

  17. July 26, 2009 by Cucinista

    Mel, I don’t know how you do it, but you put the rest of us to shame. Great photos, witty commentary, and exciting eating. I thought I was adventurous but clearly one hasn’t lived without sucking the head of a shrimp. Ok, I guess that sounded pervy too…

  18. July 27, 2009 by Christine

    Hi, love your blog. I pass on the Kreativ Blogger Award to you.

  19. July 28, 2009 by Leela@SheSimmers

    I’m sitting here in front of the computer with 5-6 other friends watching you suck the shrimp head. Brava! What a fun vid! Great looking recipe as well.

  20. July 29, 2009 by Eric Hoffman

    That looks great! What a refreshing dish for summer.

  21. August 05, 2009 by Crystal

    Looks great, as do all of your recipes. Your photo quality is great too – well done to an all-round great site.

  22. August 07, 2009 by Tangled Noodle

    What a marvelous dish! I have only recently learned about the bounty of spot prawns in Vancouver from Phyllis of Me_hungry, when she posted about her visit back home. Now this! I think a visit to BC is in order . . . !

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