A lot of us were told growing up not to play with our food. That was all well and good when trying to teach manners, however I know now, in my culinary journey that some of the best food experiences involve playing with one's food - using hands to eat.
Communal meals in the Middle East and a lot of Africa involve huge trays with different items of food and plates or bowls for individuals with hands used to scoop food from the trays to your mouth. There are rules of etiquette that guide this process. This practice is seen in India as well. Even in the West, messy burgers and fries require fingers to get the job done. Closer to home, popular Nigerian meals of soup and a starch (swallow) are best eaten with hands.
I wanted a full on messy but delicious food experience that involved hands and sauce and would be fun as well. I thought of crawfish in the US cooked in spicy seasoning and served on long tables with diners wearing bibs to protect their clothing from stray juices and people taking the shells off these little critters and some sucking the heads (the best part) with looks of rapture on their faces.
This dish is so easy to put together but is really finger licking good. Literally. You can have it on its own. Or with rice or potatoes or soft bread to mop up all the sauce. Regardless of what you choose to have as a side to accompany this dish, have spare plates for the shells and lots of paper napkins to clean up afterwards.
You will need:
- 1kg plump shell on prawns
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 small red onion - cut into chunks
- 6 cloves of garlic - peeled and cut into half
- 1 small piece of ginger - cut into 2
- 4 green chilies - cut into half
- 2 large lemongrass stalks - bruised or cut into half
- Choice of fresh herbs - one or a mix of thyme, African Basil (scent leaf), curry leaves, basil
- Salt to taste
- In a large sauce pan, add all the ingredients except the prawns and bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly.
- Taste and add salt to taste
- Add the prawns and stir to make sure the prawns are all coated with the sauce
- Turn the heat to low and cover pan
- Cook for 10 minutes and stir prawns and sauce
- Serve in individual bowls