Prawn (also known as shrimp in US) is the most loved seafood across the world
To determine whether a prawn is fresh, take a sniff – there should not be any ‘fishy’ smell. The prawn should not be limp or falling apart. Hold the prawn by the tail and check that the head does not droop forward.
Wash the prawn thoroughly under cold running water.
Next you need to remove the vein which runs along the back of the prawn. The vein, which is the stomach of the prawn, may be harmful if eaten. It may cause a tummy ache or at the least may contain sand / have a bitter taste which will ruin your dish. Many people feel removing the vein is a difficult task and do not want to cook with fresh prawns. However, if you follow the simple steps below, with some practice, I am sure you will become an expert in cleaning prawns.
Cleaning prawn after removing shell
You may like to keep the head on, but want to remove the shell e.g. if you are cooking the prawn on low heat like in a curry, see prawn malaikari recipe. Remove the shell with your hands, taking care not to break off the tail and the head.
Holding the prawn firmly in one hand, make a slit along the back with a sharp knife till you reach the vein.
With the tip of the knife gently lift the vein. Pull slowly and discard the vein. Give the prawn a quick wash under cold running water and it is ready to cook.
Cleaning prawn keeping the shell on
You may want to keep the shell on, if you are cooking the prawn on high/direct heat e.g. a stir-fry or in a barbeque. This will keep the prawn tender and juicy else they will turn hard and rubbery. Don’t worry, removing the vein with the shell on isn’t too difficult as you will see below. However, keep in mind, this will work only if the prawn is fresh, else the vein will break.
Holding the prawn firmly on one hand, make a cut at the small jutting out part just above the prawn tail. This is where the vein ends.
Now, insert the tip of a sharp knife in the narrow space between the head and the shell and gently pull out the vein. Use a narrow knife like a paring knife. You may also use a thick needle or a toothpick.
Gently pull at the vein till it’s completely outside and discard. Make sure that you have removed the complete vein by looking at the end which was attached to the tail. That side looks different – you will know it when you see it.
If you are unable to pull out the entire vein, remove one shell towards the tell, make a small slit and remove the vein.
Some cooks remove the veins with the shell on, by slicing through the shell. However, you will need a very sharp knife to do this and I find it quite difficult. Also, because there is a slit in the shell, the prawn juices will be lost e.g. if you are doing a prawn barbeque.
There you go – a bowl full of cleaned prawns ready to go into my prawn malaikari gravy.