This is an easy guide on making a versatile, delicious pot of prawn stock.
Next time you’re peeling prawns, keep all those shells and heads! They make into a very easy and delicious prawn stock. Prawn stock can be used to make plenty of dishes: Hokkien Noodles, Prawn Mee, Tom Yum Goong, Tom Kha Gai as well as in non-Asian cuisine, such as Seafood Risotto.
You don’t have to use them at one go. I have a ziploc bag in my fridge where I would toss prawn heads and shells in as and when. Once I’m ready to use them – or if the bag gets full – I simply defrost it and they’re ready to go.
While you can use the prawn heads and shells, I almost always use just the heads. I use a lot of prawns, so I can easily collect the heads which store so much more flavour than the shells.
Cooking off the Liquids
The most important step would be in the initial frying process before adding water to form a stock. Add oil to the pot, and once hot, add the prawn heads and shells. Stir fry the prawn heads until all the liquid has been drawn out, and evaporates. This might take a while, and I implore you to be patient!
After a few stir fries, and the prawn heads might still have a wee bit liquid foaming out… Patience! This is still not it! Give it a few stir fries still, until the liquid has evaporated.
There should be no fishy smell at all, and a roasted aroma – much like grilled prawns! – should waft through the kitchen. This is when the prawn heads are ready.
This is crucial to prevent a fishy tasting broth. Some prawn bits might even be slightly burnt and charred, this is fine. Once you add the water, give it a stir and scrape the bottom of the pot. Those charred bits are flavour!
Basic Prawn Stock
For good prawn stock, all you need are: prawn heads and shells, and water. That’s it!
In this recipe I included ginger, onion and garlic. In actual fact, you don’t need these ingredients at all to have a nice, robust stock.
Garlic and onion are great alliums for flavour, and most kitchens would have these at the ready in their pantry. Ginger in general goes so well with seafood. It especially helps to mitigate any fishiness too.
Sometimes I would add other ingredients as well, depending on what scrap ingredients I have in my fridge. To find out more about my scrap ingredient process, see my Chicken Stock recipe. If you want to level up your stock even more, cook it with other meats such as chicken bones. I incorporated chicken parts and feet with my prawn stock in my recipe for Hokkien Mee.
I used 2 litres of water to 600g worth of prawn heads. This resulted in a nice stock that is slightly diluted. This makes for a more versatile stock since prawn can be an overwhelming flavour. If you prefer a stronger, richer broth, simply cut down on the amount of water.
Tip: Squish prawn heads with a potato masher to squeeze out even more prawn essence into the broth. Alternatively, you can use your spatula to give the prawn heads a mashing.
How long to boil the prawn heads?
Unlike other meat stocks like chicken or beef, you don’t have to stew these for long to get the maximum flavour. I’ve read before that cooking it for too long might even result in loss of flavour – I personally have never experienced that but I usually limit my prawn stock cook time to no more than an hour.
How to Keep Prawn Stock?
Remove the prawn heads and shells, as well as the aromatics from the stock. Depending on what I’m feeling, I would simply use a slotted spoon to take them out. I do not mind fleshy prawn bits swimming (haha) around my stock at all. If I want a clearer stock, I would strain the prawn stock through a fine mesh strainer.
I always make enough to split into two portions. I keep one portion in my refrigerator, and the other portion in the freezer. This can keep for one week in the fridge, and up to one month in the freezer.
Practice discretion; if the stock smells off, discard.
Recipes that Use Prawn Stock
These are just some some of the recipes that use prawn stock:
How to make Prawn StockCourse: Recipes
600g Prawn Heads and Shells
2 litres Water
1 inch Ginger
2-3 tbsps Cooking Oil
- Give prawn heads and shells a quick rinse. If there are any long feelers or legs, cut them off for easier handling.
- To a pot, add oil. Once hot, add the prawn heads and shells. Stir fry the prawn heads and shells over medium heat until it turns completely orange.
- The prawn heads and shells will begin to have liquids drawn out. Continue stirring and allow the liquid to completely evaporate.
- When the liquid has evaporated, the prawn heads should have a dry but glossy exterior. There might even be some charring happening. This is ok. There should be a roasted fragrance as well.
- Once this happens, add ginger, onion and garlic. Pour in water next.
- Stir through. With a spatula, press onto the prawn heads to release more prawn essence into the broth. If you have a potato masher, it will be easier to press onto the prawn head.
- Let this come to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat so it simmers. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
- Prawn stock is done! Run mixture through sieve to remove the prawn heads and shells.