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Prawn Crackers

Prawn crackers, also known as prawn chips and shrimp puffs are deep fried crackers made from starch and prawn that serve as flavouring.

They are a popular snack in parts of Southeast and East Asia. Prawn crackers are a common snack food throughout Southeast Asia, but most closely associated with Indonesia and Malaysia. These are called krupuk udang in Indonesian, prawn crackers in British English and shrimp chips or shrimp crackers in American English. They are known as kroepoek (old Indonesian spelling for krupuk, based on Dutch spelling rules) in Dutch, Krabbenchips (crab chips) in German, chips à la crevette in French and nuvole di drago (dragon clouds) in Italian.


TYPES

Australia

They are also known as prawn crackers or prawn chips in Australia. It is popular in many Asian restaurants. They are usually coloured pink with a salty flavour. They are usually treated as a side dish, entrée or snack.

Indonesia

Prawn crackers are called krupuk udang in Indonesian, and are only one variant of krupuk recognised in Indonesian cuisine. In Indonesia the term krupuk or kerupuk is used as umbrella term to refer to this kind of cracker. Indonesia has perhaps the largest variety of Krupuk.

Krupuk udang (prawn cracker) and other types of krupuk are ubiquitous in Indonesia. The examples of popular krupuk udang brands in Indonesia is Finna and Komodo brand. To achieve maximum crunchiness, most of this pre-packed raw krupuk udang must be sun-dried first before being deep fried at home. To cook krupuk, a wok and plenty of very hot cooking oil is needed. Raw krupuk is quite small, hard, and darker in colour than cooked one. Fishing towns of Sidoarjo in East Java, also Cirebon in West Java, are major producers of krupuk udang.

Malaysia

Prawn crackers are also one of the popular snack in Malaysia and are particularly served at homes of many during festive celebration (such as the Chinese New Year and Hari Raya) being a crowd-pleasing snack, this type of cracker can be found in many groceries stores and supermarkets.

Vietnam

Sa Dec in southern Vietnam is the home of bánh phồng tôm. The traditional snack is made of ground shrimp, sometimes mixed with cuttlefish, arrowroot flour, tapioca flour, onion, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, cracked black pepper and salt. Traditionally the dough is steamed, rolled out, cut into round chips then dried. Another method is to form rolls, steam and then slice into thin rounds before being dried. Modern production favours the oval shapes such that the chips form a scoop as an accompaniment to salads (gỏi and nộm).

Chinese

In Chinese cuisine, prawn crackers may use food colouring (including shades of white, pale pink, green and blue), and tend to be lighter and non-spicy. However, in China they are easy to find in supermarkets, yet not popular or common in restaurants or when serving food for friends.

The Netherlands

Through their historical colonial ties with Indonesia, the Dutch are familiar with Indonesian foodstuffs including the Indonesian prawn crackers. Assorted types of krupuk (Dutch: kroepoek), deep fried crackers made from starch and flavourings, such as prawn or crab, are available in many Indische, or Indo, (Dutch-Indonesian) shops in the Netherlands, which locally are called toko. Prawn crackers are also available in many of the major supermarkets. Kroepoek is a standard part of the repertoire of “Indische” (a word referring to the former Dutch East Indies, present day Indonesia; not to be confused with the Dutch word Indiaas, meaning “from India”) restaurants in the Netherlands. It is also served in Chinese restaurants in Belgium and in the Netherlands.

General Preparation

Prawn crackers are made by mixing prawns, tapioca flour and water. The mixture is rolled out, steamed, sliced and sun-dried. In the traditional way, to achieve maximum crispiness, raw crackers are usually sun-dried first before frying, to eliminate the moisture. Once dry, they are deep-fried in oil (which must be at high heat before cooking). In only a few seconds they expand from thumb-sized semi-transparent chips to white fluffy crackers, much like popcorn, as water bound to the starch expands as it turns into steam. If left in the open air for more than a few hours (depending on humidity), they start to soften and become chewy and are therefore ideally consumed within a few hours of being fried. Storing the crackers in a low humidity environment or an airtight container will preserve the crispness. Packets of unfried prawn crackers may be purchased in oriental stores, or stores that specialise in Asian cuisine. In the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, France, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom they are also widely available in general supermarkets.

Prawn crackers of premium quality are aromatic even without additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial prawn flavourings to enhance the smell and taste. The fried prawn crackers may be stored in airtight container for up to 3 months without preservatives and up to 9 months or so depending on the amount of preservatives added.

Most varieties of prawn crackers can also be prepared in a microwave oven, in which a few discs can be cooked in less than a minute. This will usually cause them to cook and expand in a way similar to when they are deep fried. For small quantities, this method is faster and less messy, as the crackers do not become as oily. However, this may cause the cracker to retain a stronger aroma of raw shrimp and the cracker has to be consumed within hours before it softens and loses its crisp.


Krupuk Udang - Prawn Crackers
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Ingredients
  • 1 kg whole green prawns (to yield approx 500g prawn meat after beheading and shelling)
  • 500 g tapioca flour, divided
  • 200 ml homemade prawn stock (instructions below)
  • 3 - 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • ground white pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
Instructions
To make the prawn stock
  1. Remove heads and shells from prawns.
  2. Using a small sharp knife, devein the prawns by making a slit along the back of each prawn and removing the intestinal tract.
  3. Dry the prawn meat with paper-towels and set aside (ensure they stay cold to prevent food poisoning).
  4. Place the heads and shells into a large pot with enough water to barely cover.
  5. Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to approximately 1 cup (250 ml). (see note 1)
To make the prawn paste
  1. Strain the heads and shells from the prawn stock
  2. Weigh the prawn meat to determine the amount of tapioca flour and stock needed for the prawn paste. The ratio for the prawn paste is 100 g of tapioca flour and 200ml prawn stock to 500 g prawn meat. (If you have less prawn meat, use proportionately less flour - see the chart in note 4)
  3. Sift the measured tapioca flour into a small bowl.
  4. Gradually add boiling prawn stock to the flour to make a sticky paste. (If your stock is very dense, it will be more like a dough ball).
  5. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, blend the prawn meat together with the salt and white pepper to a fine paste.
  6. Add the tapioca flour paste from the previous steps and blend until the mixtures are thoroughly combined.
  7. Transfer the prawn paste to a large bowl.
To make the dough
  1. Sift 400 g tapioca flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder in a separate large bowl.
  2. Gradually work the sifted tapioca flour and baking powder into the prawn paste until you get a workable dough. (You may not need all of the 400 g tapioca starch - Do not make the dough too dry: add only enough tapioca flour to take the dough to a state where it can be easily handled and formed into rolls.)
To process the dough
  1. Form the dough into cylindrical rolls of between approximately 5 cm in diameter.
  2. Lightly grease the base of steamer trays or line them with damp muslin. (see note 2)
  3. Make sure the dough rolls are spaced well apart as they will double in size during steaming.
  4. Steam the rolls over rapidly boiling water for about 45 minutes - 1 hour, depending on the diameter of your rolls. (If your steaming vessel doesn't have a vented lid, either leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape or drape damp muslin or tea-towels over the rolls to stop condensation whilst they are cooking).
Slice rolls to form crackers
  1. Place the steam-cooked rolls on a wire rack to cool completely.
  2. Wrap each roll with glad-wrap (plastic cling film) and refrigerate overnight to allow the rolls to firm up for easy slicing.
  3. The next day, using a very sharp serrated knife, slice the rolls into thin slices of approx 1 mm thickness.
To dry the prawn cracker slices (see note 3)
  1. To dry the crackers in a dehydrator, spread the slices in single layers on the food dehydrator trays. Set the dehydrator at the lowest setting (35°C) and dry the slices for at least 18 hours.
  2. When completely dry and hard, store in an air-tight container in a cool dry place until required.
To cook your crackers
  1. Heat the oil in a wok or large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the larger wafers one at a time, spooning oil over them as they cook — the oil should be hot enough to make them swell within 2–3 seconds of being dropped in. Test with a small piece first. If the oil is not the right temperature they will be tough and leathery, not crisp and melting. On the other hand if the oil is too hot they will brown too fast. A little practice will tell how hot the oil should be. Remove the wafers with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel (placed on a wire rack — this will keep the wafers crisp). Cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. Once cooked they will keep for up to 4 days.
Notes
1. The reduced volume of liquid doesn't have to be precise at this stage - the aim is to get as much flavour out of the heads and shells as possible and achieve a concentrated prawn stock.

2. Don't put the rolls on plates to steam as water will collect on the plate and turn your dough into a soggy mess.

3. It is important the crackers are thoroughly dried and very hard. They will not puff up properly on frying if there is moisture present. Prawn crackers are traditionally sun-dried, a process which takes several days and good weather on your side. Drying overnight in a dehydrator is the most efficient way but in the absence of a dehydrator, leave them on wire racks in a dry airy place (a sunny spot is ideal but not essential) for at least 24 hours until quite well-dried out and then complete the drying in a very low oven for several hours.

4. Proportional measurements for tapioca paste are:
500 g meat - 100 g flour for paste - 200 ml liquid
475 g meat - 95 g flour for paste - 190 ml liquid
450 g meat - 90 g flour for paste - 180 ml liquid
425 g meat - 85 g flour for paste - 170 ml liquid
400 g meat - 80 g flour for paste - 160 ml liquid
375 g meat - 75 g flour for paste - 150 ml liquid

 

 

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