Peppery Garlic Prawns

My friends are so very patient with me. BFF Steve-Anna first emailed me this spicy, peppery shrimp recipe, a favorite of hers, four years ago. And then again, at least two or three more times, when I declared I couldn’t find it, and would she please-pretty-please send it again. Hey Stevie, we finally made it! Just in time for Lent. Dang, what took us so long? Love the shrimp. It certainly packs a punch though, with all of the black pepper the recipe asks for. Feel free to cut back on the pepper to tone it down a bit. The recipe also calls for a tablespoon of brandy. This I think is an essential ingredient for the recipe. (Actually with so few ingredients, they’re all essential.) There is no substitute. If you simply cannot cook with alcohol, add a dab of butter to the olive oil. It will change the flavor of the finished dish, but it should still taste great.

Peppery Garlic Prawns Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 2-3 as a main dish, 4 as an appetizer.

Menu suggestion: Goes well over white basmati rice (be sure to drizzle extra sauce from the pan over the rice), snow peas or sugar snap peas, and some french bread to soak up the garlic sauce. If you don't like the strong black pepper taste, you can back off a bit and it's still great.

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns*
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • 1 lb. raw medium-sized shrimp, shelled, de-veined and split (tails on or off)**
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

*Crushing the peppercorns can be done with a mortar and pestle. Or if you don't have a mortar and pestle, place the whole peppercorns in a small ziplock bag and place that bag inside another ziplock bag and smash with a hammer. Do this on a hard surface, if done on a wood surface, it can leave dents. The ziplock will also tear a bit, so take care not to lose the crushed pepper (why you double bag it).

** Trader Joe's has great frozen uncooked, shrimp, shelled and de-veined with tails on. To defrost frozen shrimp, place in a bowl of ice water in the refrigerator.

Method

1 Mix together the crushed garlic, salt, crushed peppercorns, lemon juice and brandy. Add the shrimp and marinate at least an hour or up to overnight in the fridge.

2 Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil. Add shrimp and garlic mixture and cook quickly, tossing shrimp. The longer the shrimp has been marinating, the less time it takes to cook. Cook until the shrimp has turned opaque (generally only 2-3 minutes).

Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Links:
Creamy garlic prawns from Foodilicious Malaysia
Prawn fried rice from Lydia of The Perfect Pantry

26 Comments

  1. Evelyn

    My husband and I make this recipe all the time ever since Steve-Anna introduced us to it some years ago. We just made this a few weeks ago for my mother-in-law’s Birthday. Yes it is fancy enough to serve at a dinner party, yet surprisingly quick and easy to make. We always use about 1/2 the amount of pepper and 2X the amount of garlic.

  2. iga@thedelishdish

    I also buy the Trader Joe’s shrimp and have been very happy with it. I normally make it with just garlic and olive oil but I love the idea of adding peppercorns, brandy, and lemon juice!

  3. Steve-Anna

    When Elise told me she and her dad were (finally!) making this recipe, I suggested they serve it over rice and have french bread on hand to soak up the sauce. She commented that her dad said there really wasn’t that much sauce, which made me pause.

    I’ve made this so many times. I must admit I don’t think I follow the recipe any more. I’d say treat the recipe as a guide, and emphasize the flavors you like. On reflection, I think I go heavy on the lemon juice and the brandy. I also butter the rice (and the bread, for that matter). Both of those things will help off-set the strong black pepper flavor.

    Elise, I’m so happy you and your dad got around to trying it!

    Hi Steve-Anna, I doubled the brandy to 2 Tbsp. We still may want to add more. ~Elise

  4. Leisureguy

    Cook’s Illustrated recommends thawing the shrimp in iced brine. They claim that brining the shrimp greatly improves it.

    Great idea, thanks! ~Elise

  5. Carol

    I am new to this site, having stumbled upon it in a mad panic to find something to feed the new boyfriend. I have always HATED to cook, but can make a MEAN reservation! Already since yesterday, I am a convert. I made several recipes and found them SIMPLE (go figure) and new-boyfriend-approved! This is no small deal, as I am a 46-year-old lifelong non-cook (I can cook, I just never wanted to). THIS is a wonderful, wonderful place! Many thanks…it’s obvious that this is a site filled with good food and much love!

  6. Tao

    To defrost the prawns, do you keep them in the bag and put in ice water or take them out of the bag and put the prawns themselves in the water?

    I take them out of the bag and put them in the ice water. This way the water surrounds each shrimp. ~Elise

  7. Solaera

    Yum. My husband makes a very similar dish but uses cayenne instead of black pepper and serves it over saffron rice.

    Oooh. Thawing the shrimp in an iced brine is an excellent tip. Thanks!

  8. Christina B

    When this dish was posted on the front page I went out and bought all the ingredients. I must say, it was deeeelicious! The pepper is strong (I used about 1 1/4 tps of the pepper) but I was warned, and it was part of what made it tasty! Of the 25 shrimps in the lb I had 6 and my husband basically finished the lb all by himself. I will be making these again! I made mashed potatoes as a side dish, a very good complement.

  9. cafefenix

    Hmm.. can´t wait to try. Reminds me of a long lost fantastic shrimp recipe with Sambuca (I used Arak liquor)
    Somebody has a recipe like that ?

  10. Liz Walter

    Absolutely fantastic recipe Elise! I combined this recipe with the peppers and baby bok choy recipe that you posted several months ago (we absolutely love that one and eat it in some form at least couple of times a month)I added sugar snap peas as well. We thought it was great tasting and very colourful too. We had it over rice but I think that it would have been fine on its own for a lower carb meal. I cooked the veggies first until they were almost done and then I added the shrimp for the last few minutes. The brandy added something special to the shrimp and it didn’t really taste “boozy” just wonderful!

  11. Lynn

    I don’t have brandy. What would be a good substitute? Cognac? Grand Marnier? Sherry? I have all 3 at home, and no liquor stores are open in my area on Sundays.

  12. Jerome

    Lynn: I think all 3 would be good, but Cognac would be the closest. Cognac is by definition a brandy made in the region of Cognac in France following a specific traditional method.

    Grand Marnier would give it a distinct orange touch :) Perhaps you could add a tad of orange zest if you decide to go with the Grand Marnier.

    Sherry is wine fortified with brandy. I often cook a similar shrimps recipe with white wine which is itself quite good, though I then choose to add spring onions and sometimes a touch of cream.

    If you decide to buy a brandy sometimes and have a little budget for it, I highly recommend Van Ryn’s 10 year old brandy. It is about 45 USD for a 750ml bottle, and although it might be a bit overkill for these shrimps, they will for sure be delicious. By itself it is quite a tasting experience!

  13. Tom

    Made this last night for my wife and me. I doubled the liquid in the marinade and still did not have any sauce? The pepper is overpowering so I backed it down as well. I will make it again but will definitely take the Brandy up to a 1/4 cup or so.

    I see even the originators of the recipe modify it and add more brandy and lemon juice. Get the proportions right and this can be great.

    Hi Tom, your comment reminded me to up the liquids in the recipe. I’ve doubled the brandy. The recipe may still need more, depending on how much sauce you want. ~Elise

  14. Stacia

    I was looking for something different to do with shrimp this weekend, so this was perfectly timed. We had it last night — so good! We paired it with a simple angle hair pasta tossed with butter, lemon, and sauteed shallot and cherry tomatoes. My only regret is not getting the skillet quite hot enough for the shrimp, but now I know. The recipe I used was the one with less liquids, so I’ll increase it next time. I will definitely try defrosting in iced brine, too, I’ve never done that before.

  15. azelia

    This reminds me of pepper squid made in similar way with lots of pepper & garlic.

    My suggestion with regards to wanting more sauce but not wanting to keep adding more brandy or lemon juice would be to, once you’ve removed the shrimps from the pan add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan let it bubble a little absorbing all the flavour left in the pan, reduce slightly and pour over prawns.

    I do this method with anything I pan fry which means I don’t leave any of the good flavours behind and have a little sauce.

  16. slowfoodie @ Slow Food Fast Cook

    This is similar to what my mom makes. She sometimes leaves the skin on and cook until they’re crispy. I prefer the peeled version though. It’s a lot easier to eat!

  17. evila

    I made this dish last night and despite cutting down on the amount of pepper recommended, it still overpowered out all the other ingredients. The brandy and garlic were totally wasted. The lemon was barely discernible. Very disappointing.

  18. amy

    OMG! I made the shrimp and the cheese puffs on Saturday. I also steamed some asparagus on sale at my local market. This was a delicious, perfect meal!! I love your food Elise!

  19. Caroline in San Francisco

    Made the shrimp for dinner tonight, and it was delicious! Marinated 24 hours, toned down the peppers, and chopped the garlic cloves. Served over rice. Will make it again this weekend for Sunday lunch for company. It’s so easy and good. Thanks, Elise!

  20. Nick L

    I spent years looking for a good garlic prawn recipe and tried everything….it wasn’t till I found this recipe about 15 years ago that I knew “This was it”….the only difference in the recipe I found was that after the prawns were done and taken out cream was placed into the pan and let infuse with the flavors…when half reduced it was poured over boiled rice and the prawns placed on top….then a squeeze of lemon….it makes what is a fantastic recipe even better

  21. Debbie

    Yes, to that last suggestion. Everything tasted great except there was not enough liquid to serve the dish over rice. The cream sounds like it would be a delicious addition.

  22. Stephanie

    This recipe was AMAZING! We’ve used this recipe twice in the last two weeks and each time we were very pleased with the results. The pepper added just a little kick to the shrimp and the rice we put the shrimp over was divine.

  23. Maria

    Just finished eating this. So delicious. I didn’t have brandy or lemon juice on hand so I used red Shiraz and lime juice instead. Absolutely delish. I added extra black pepper for a kick.
    I mixed into my primavera pasta, it was a great accompaniment.

    Can’t wait to make this for my parents :)

  24. Eileen

    Oh wow, thank you so much for this recipe. So simple, and so utterly delicious. I wonder how this marinade would taste with other fish? Just as good, I suspect. Even maybe with tofu.

  25. Francisco

    For those that want extra sauce quadruple the recipe, if you want to have french bread sop, add even more. The recipe amounts are lacking and you will be disappointed if you like extra sauce. Also, if you are a spicier type cook or eater, double the pepper. This is pretty tame for anyone that has experience with Asian or Mexican food.

  26. Deirdre

    This is absolutely delicious and so, so simple. I love pepper so no reducing the amounts for my taste. Thanks for all the tips on having more sauce. Excellent result! I will be re-visiting your site for other recipes if they’re all this good.

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