Edit: Please note that this post pre-dates my decision to shift to a plant-based diet. The prawns can be replaced with firm tofu for an equally delicious stir-fry. xx
The Asian staple is rice. White rice to be more precise, and refined carbs including white bread and white pasta just doesn’t do your body good. Within an hour of a meal involving white rice, meats, sambal and, let’s be honest, very little vegetables, it will hit you – sluggishness. That’s because your body quickly converted the meal into energy and cannot hold on to it for a longer period. And very soon after that, you will likely feel hungry again. Wholegrain is the way to go, and honestly wholegrain to me just tastes better. Well, it actually tastes of something! I’ve heard that in Cambodia, brown rice is sold for cheaper than white rice, which makes sense because there would have been no extra effort put in to make the brown rice to white rice, and because it is cheaper it is actually served to prisoners.
There’s actually quite a variety of rice available here – brown rice, red rice, wild rice, you name it. All of them have their own characteristics, but generally they have a “nutty” taste and have a bit of a bite to it, and I think that really adds more flavour to the dish. Being a wholegrain, the body takes longer to break them down into energy so the slow release sustains you for longer in the day, making you feel fuller for longer and also, no sluggishness! Today I am using red rice. Visually, this just happens to go very well with the pink-coral colour of the prawns. Red rice is a great source of fiber and also provides your body with iron, calcium and B-vitamins. The added bonus of red rice over brown rice is that it contains an antioxidant pigment called anthocyanins. Antioxidants play a really important role in boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, providing relief for allergies, aiding in the prevention of cancer and is also supposed to assist in weight loss.
Shellfish have a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol, when actually they are very low in saturated fat and calories. That is, so long as it isn’t covered in batter and/or fried in unhealthy oils. Prawns (and other shellfish) are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are important in promoting heart health. At the end of the day, it’s about moderation, cooking and eating well. You can use fresh or frozen prawns, the latter to make life easier. What you do is let them defrost in a bowl of salted water, which helps plump up the flesh. I wanted to try my hand at de-shelling and de-veining prawns for the first time and man is it an effort. But nothing beats fresh.
When making stir-fries, bulk up your dish with lots of veges. Unfortunately, we ran out of green vege at home when I wanted to make this, so I have a lone pak choy here but ideally it will be a fair bunch. I state the ideal amounts below in the recipe. Why we only had one stalk of pak choy also beats me. Garlic is really an understated superfood hiding as a flavour enhancer is savoury recipes – they are packed with sulfur which supports our cardiovascular system in many ways and are also anti-inflammatory and have antibacterial benefits. A traditional remedy for colds is to take a whole garlic clove when you feel the cold coming on – I haven’t tried it personally, but do let me know if anyone has tried and if it really works!
You will need some oil to coat your pan, so go for an oil that is good for you. Good fats are an important part of your diet as they play a role in the transporting of certain vitamins in your body, so don’t be afraid to use it in your meals. Also, they work wonders for your skin and hair, whether you take them internally or use them as beauty products, but more on that in another post.
- 600g prawns, fresh or frozen
- ⅓ cup red or brown rice
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil or olive oil
- ½ a brown onion
- 1 bunch pak choy
- 1 carrot
- 4 large limes
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2-4 garlic cloves, depending on how much you like garlic
- a couple of green onions
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with a dash of water
- optional: 1 tsp sesame seeds for garnish
- If your prawns are fresh, remove the heads and shells, leaving the tail intact. If your prawns are frozen, take them out of the freezer about an hour before you intend to cook, and place them in a bowl of salted water. This really brings back the freshness to the prawns and keeps them plump.
- Rinse your rice, then add water with a ratio of 1:2.5 rice to water - in this case, that's 1 cup water. Bring the water to a boil, and bring down to a simmer, covering your pot while it cooks. If you find that you don't like your rice too al dente, you could add another ⅓ cup water. Once the water is fully absorbed, turn off your stove and take the rice off the heat. You can cook the rice in your rice cooker, I just opted for the stove top as I made a small portion here.
- As your rice cooks, prepare all your vegetables. Slice your onions into crescents, mince the garlic, slice your carrots into matchsticks (or really, your preferred carrot cut, I know I have a personal preference), slice the green onions and pak choy thickly. With stir-fries it is important to have everything ready to go.
- Juice your limes and get your honey ready.
- Heat up your wok or frying pan. If using sesame seeds, toast them first before moving on to the rest of the dish. Once heated, pour in the 1 teaspoon of oil and fry the prawns until beautifully coral and no longer opaque. Remove from the wok and set aside.
- With another teaspoon of oil, add onions and carrots, the vegetables that take the longest to cook, and cook them for about 5 minutes till the onions are soft and translucent. Now throw the rest of the vegetables and garlic in, cook for a minute, then the prawns, lime juice and honey. Cook for another minute, then add the cornstarch and water slurry to help thicken up the sauce. I forgot to do that here, and it isn't entirely necessary. Remove from heat.
- Divide the rice and stir-fry between two bowls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using.