Although not strictly a Christmas dish, this Chinese dish pops up whenever there is a special occasion. It is perfect for multi-faith Malaysia as it crosses all religious taboos especially during the customary "open house" when friends and guests come to visit. A fantastic do-ahead starter, it is nothing more than deep-fried butterflied prawns topped with minced prawns and water chestnuts. They are often eaten with mayonnaise, chilli sauce, a soy dipping sauce and in some families, chutney.
Title:For the stuffing
300g prawn meat
1 egg white
5 water chestnuts, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped
salt and pepper
Title:For the prawns
12 medium prawns, shelled, deveined with tails left on
salt and pepper
oil for deep frying
Title:For the topping
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 egg, beaten
2 cups panko* or regular breadcrumbs
For the stuffing
Use the pulse action of a food processor to process prawn meat and egg white until just combined - do not turn it into a puree. Season prawns to taste with salt and pepper and add water chestnuts and ginger. Pulse once to combine and chill well before using. Alternatively, chop the prawns manually to a coarse paste and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. To test it is ready, pick a handful of prawn paste and slap it against the bowl. It's ready when it is light and spongy. Divide paste into 12 portions.
For the prawns
Mould a portion onto the butterflied prawn leaving tail exposed. Coat stuffed prawns in cornflour and dip briefly into beaten egg. Dredge in breadcrumbs.
Deep fry in batches in clean oil at 175C until golden (about 3-5 minutes). Drain well on kitchen paper and serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.
* Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs available from Asian grocers. Panko give a lighter, crunchier result than Western crumbs. Substitute day-old white breadcrumbs.