Prawn crackers have a special place in the hearts of Malaysians as it reminds us of our fond childhood memories. The crackers were the ultimate snacks for road trips and were a typical pre-dinner snack.
Within Southeast Asia, prawn crackers are immensely popular in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Here, we take a dive (pun intended) into these deep-fried goodies.
What are Prawn Crackers?
Simply put, prawn crackers are deep-fried snacks made from starch and crushed prawns. The mix of prawns, water and flour, are first steamed and rolled before leaving it out to be sun-dried. This method of drying removes almost all the moisture from the cracker, allowing it to achieve maximum crunchiness.
When the raw mix is thrown in the deep-fryer, it expands from a thumb-sized paste into an odd-shaped wafer, much like the way popcorn changes instantly when cooked.
Prawn crackers have a fragrant, savoury aroma and the crunchiness of it at every bite makes it irresistible. They’re usually sold in big bags by street vendors and peddlers.
History of Prawn Crackers
Although prawn crackers are made exclusively from prawns, it wasn’t always the case. In fact, the invention of prawn crackers stretches far back to the 16th century, when colonisers would feast on bountiful seafood and discard the unwanted parts of the fish. To reduce waste, they would re-use the discarded parts, crush them into a paste and deep-fry them into flavourful seafood crackers.
Prawn Crackers in Other Cuisines
As mentioned repeatedly, prawn crackers have strong historical roots in Southeast Asia, but its deliciousness knows no bounds, with countries like China and the Netherlands adopting the snack into their respective cuisines.
In China, prawn crackers are smaller, pinkish and less pungent than the original. Restaurants serve the crackers as appetisers, and takeaway shops often pack them as a free snack with one’s order. Not to mention how these crackers are a delicious side dish to mains like the Peking Duck.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, thanks to its strong colonial ties with Indonesia, is no stranger to the snack. Usually sold in local food marts, these crackers have expanded their flavours to include crab as well.
Variations of Prawn Crackers
In Malay-speaking communities, prawn crackers go by a different name – keropok, which happens to be the term most Malaysians are familiar with. Keropok can be seen as an umbrella term, encompassing all the different varieties of crackers.
Some vendors specialise in frying crab crackers, while others mass-produce fish crackers.
In Vietnam, however, the prawn crackers are called “ánh phồng tôm”, and typically contain ground shrimp, cuttlefish, arrowroot and tapioca flour. They are seasoned with onion, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, and salt and pepper. Vietnamese prawn crackers are also made in a roundish shape, as it is often paired with salads where the crackers can act as “scoops” to the meal.
Where to Find Prawn Crackers in Malaysia
Most supermarkets and minimarts would carry some form of prawn crackers, but none can compare to the flavours of crackers from the beachside. Freshly-fried, coupled with the smell of the ocean, your best bet on getting prawn crackers would be alongside the coastal areas of Malaysia.
But for a quick snack that brings back memories of our childhood, visit foodpanda to find them now!