Prawn toasts: a new spin on the yum cha classic

Jill Dupleix
At its best: Delicate prawn mousse with a crisp toasty base.
At its best: Delicate prawn mousse with a crisp toasty base. Photo: Steven Siewert

What is it?

At its worst, it's a deep-fried triangle of bread topped with a smear of prawn paste and a solid armour of sesame seeds. At its best, it's a delicate prawn mousse with a crisp toasty base that happily brings to mind a quality yum cha lunch. Now it's being reinvented by contemporary chefs using luxury ingredients such as scallops or foie gras - one even serves it for breakfast, with slow-poached eggs.

Where is it?

At Melbourne's neighbourly Ora Specialty Coffee in Kew, prawn toast is the star of the breakfast menu. Chef Zoe Pearce tops sourdough bread with a prawn, coriander root, ginger, garlic, lime zest, soy and egg white paste, pan-fries it until crisp and serves it with whipped avocado and lime, pickled carrot and cucumber salad, and a slow-poached egg. "It's such an interesting thing to have for breakfast," she says. "People even order bacon to have with it."

At Mahjong in St Kilda, the sesame prawn toast has been joined by a new variant, scallop toast. "Prawn toast has been around for a long time," says manager Simon Tsui. "But people seem to want it again. They like to eat food they remember from the past."

In Sydney, chef Dan Hong continues his merry mission to reinvent the once-daggy food of his youth, first by popularising prawn toast fingers with yuzu mayonnaise and Asian herb salad at Ms G's, and now, by value-adding foie gras into chic little prawn toast canapes at Mr Wong. "It's about adding a certain element of luxury to that nostalgic feeling you get when eating prawn toast," Hong says.

Why do I care?

Because it's easy to make and great with a drink.

Can I do it at home?

Yes. Use either sourdough or normal white sandwich loaf; both will work better if stale.



Mr Wong, 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney, 9240 3000, 



Ora Specialty Coffee, 156 Pakington Street, Kew, 03 9855 2002; Mahjong, 165 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 03 9534 8833

Prawn toast

Cut into rounds, triangles or fingers, and serve with lemon soy, chilli sauce, or a hot, sweet, sour relish.

500g green (raw) prawn meat

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 tsp sesame oil

sliced white bread, stale

2 tbsp white sesame seeds

1 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)

peanut or vegetable oil for deep frying

2 spring onion greens, sliced

1. In a food processor, pulse the prawns, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar, cornflour, rice wine, egg white and sesame oil until almost smooth. Refrigerate the prawn paste for about two hours.

2. Cut the bread into six centimetre rounds with a cookie cutter or upturned glass, and top each round with the prawn paste, spreading to the edges then slightly mounding it in the middle. Scatter with white and black sesame seeds.

3. Heat the oil in a wok or deep-fryer until a piece of bread turns golden in 10 seconds (at 180C). Add the prawn toasts in batches. Fry until golden, about two minutes, then turn and fry until cooked through.

4. Drain on paper towel and scatter with spring onions.

Makes 10 to 12