This recipe for Pakistani style spicy deep-fried shrimp is a super fun addition to your party menu. They are crunchy, flavorful, and work really well as an appetizer.
About this Recipe
I began to test this recipe because I realized I was short on fish and seafood dishes on the blog. One of the reasons they are under-represented is because I grew up in the landlocked city of Islamabad, and wasn't around a lot of seafood. We occasionally would have river fish during winter season – my mother would prepare a rich fish curry in which she would simmer the delicate river varietal, roho, in a richly spiced yogurt sauce. Or we would have deep-fried trout, either at weddings or at some roadside shack while traveling.
Shrimp or prawn was a huge novelty for me in Pakistan. I loved it but it was expensive, and we never prepared it at home. So when I moved overseas where shrimp/prawn was more affordable, I began to cook them all the time. It was a joy to share this recipe for biryani (that I make for my friends all the time now), or this quick Sindhi style prawn fry.
When I came across a recipe for deep-fried jumbo prawn in the Salt’n Pepper cookbook that I frequently use as a reference, I really wanted to adapt it for the blog. Not only was I short on recipes for seafood but also snacks. It’s also just a fun recipe! The past few months I have been so focused on developing, and reworking recipes that people are most likely to search for or cook that it was getting a bit boring.
Special thanks to my helper, Wilmina, and husband for helping adapt this recipe. They are both highly skilled at preparing deep-fried tasty things, and offered lots of great tips that helped cut down on the steps, improved the tempura’s overall flavor, and most importantly, gave it the right texture.
It is definitely an indulgent recipe so I would recommend sharing it with family and friends at a dinner party either as an appetizer or a side. It’s best served with a sweet and tangy sauce - I have included some recipe suggestions further below!
- Jumbo shrimp or prawn: You can use regular-sized shrimp or prawn as well – they are cheaper - but it will take forever to fry them, and they don’t work as well as an appetizer. I used raw shrimp that was already peeled and deveined for this recipe. You can leave the tail on - I removed them here but it's a matter of personal preference.
- Cilantro: I love the fresh flavor it gives to the marinade but if you are not a fan, feel free to omit.
- Bird’s eye chili: I used a finely chopped bird’s eye chili for this recipe but you can use serrano pepper or jalapeño as well – just remember to adjust for heat.
- Crushed garlic
- Crushed ginger
- Red chili powder: I used the Kashmiri red chili powder variety because of its gorgeous hue and mild taste. You can definitely use ground cayenne pepper instead, just remember to adjust for your preferred spice level – cayenne is a bit hotter.
- Lemon: This adds just the right amount of acidity to the marinade. I would refrain from using limes as a substitute since lime juice is a bit harsher.
- Egg: This forms the basis of the marinade, and will later also go into the batter to help it bind.
- All-purpose flour: I just used regular all-purpose flour for the batter, and found it worked well.
- Baking soda: Use just a tiny amount to make the batter a bit more fluffy while frying.
- White pepper: I know this may not be easily available, and you can use black pepper as a substitute. But if you can get a hold of it, it’s a fantastic addition to your pantry, and is especially lovely in this dish.
- Neutral oil: I used canola oil for this recipe but sunflower or vegetable oil work well too.
How to Make It
Make the marinade: In a large bowl, add the beaten egg and all the marinade ingredients (cilantro, chili, ginger, garlic, salt, red chili powder and lemon juice). Mix until well-blended. Add shrimp or prawn to the marinade, and coat well. Set aside.
Get the Batter Ready: In another large bowl, add 1 cup flour, baking soda, white pepper and salt, and mix together. Add 1 cup water gradually – don’t drench the batter. Mix it with well with a fork. It’s going to be a bit stiff but that’s okay. Drain the egg marinade into the batter mixture. Beat it into the batter with a fork until smooth. Make sure there are no lumps.
Get your frying station ready: In a large plate or bowl, pour roughly ½ cup purpose flour besides the stove. Heat a small saucepan, and add 1 cup oil.
Fry the shrimp/prawn: Once hot, begin to get your shrimp/prawn ready. Dip them well into the batter, and then coat them really well with the dry flour – spoon flour over them if you need to. Once done, add them to the saucepan (make sure the oil is piping hot), and fry roughly 1 ½ minutes each side. Remember not to overcrowd the saucepan, give them a little room to breathe. Line a serving plate or bowl with a paper towel, and place the prepared shrimp/prawn on it to drain.
Serve immediately: If possible, serve it to your guests immediately with a sweet and sour dipping sauce of your choice.
What to Serve It With
Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce of Your Choice: Pakistan Eats readers have recommended a lot of delicious options: sweet chili sauce with hints of lemon juice and fish sauce, a marmalade-based sauce with chipotle pepper or soy sauce with honey and hot oil! I would love to pair it with duck sauce or Wajiha's stellar-looking Szechuan sauce.
Pakistani Style Deep-fried Shrimp Recipe
- 1 Saucepan
- 1 pound ~500 grams jumbo shrimp or prawn peeled, deveined and thawed
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 bird’s eye chili finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup neutral oil canola, sunflower or vegetable
- ½ cup all purpose flour (add more as needed)
- In a large bowl, add the beaten egg and all marinade ingredients (cilantro, chili, ginger, garlic, salt, red chili powder and lemon juice). Mix until well-blended.
- Add shrimp/prawn to the marinade, and coat well. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, get the batter ready. Add 1 cup flour, baking soda, white pepper and salt. Mix well. Add water gradually, mixing it with a fork until well-blended. It’s okay if the mixture is a bit stiff.
- Drain the egg marinade into the batter mixture, leaving the shrimp/prawn behind.
- Beat the egg marinade into the flour batter with a fork until smooth. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Now get your frying station ready. In a separate plate or bowl, pour ½ all purpose flour to coat the shrimp/prawn, and place it right besides the stove. In a small saucepan, heat oil.
- Dip the shrimp/prawn into the batter, and then coat it really well with the dry flour. Spoon the flour over it if you have to, and add more as needed.
- Once the oil is hot, gradually lower the battered shrimp into saucepan, and fry each side for roughly 1 ½ minute until crispy. Once the oil is piping hot, you can gradually lower the heat as you make your way to the rest of the shrimp/prawn.
- Line a serving plate or bowl with a paper towel. Once done, place the prepared shrimp/prawn on it to drain.
- Serve hot with a dipping sauce of your choice.