Korean fried gochujang prawns

Korean food has long been at a disadvantage in Australia, and we’re the poorer for it. Not as geographically close as Southeast Asian, not as ingrained in our culture as Chinese and not as mainstream in popularity as Japanese, Korean cuisine has been on a very slow burn in this country.

But it’s changing. Dishes like kimchi, bipimbap and, of course, Korean fried chicken, are increasing our awareness of how spectacularly flavourful, spicy and exciting this cuisine can be.

Korean fried chicken in particular is fascinating. Like the Japanese Nabeyaki Udon (udon noodle soup with tempura prawns in it), it breaks a cardinal rule of deep fried food. Once the chicken is fried golden and crispy, it’s slung through a dense, dark, sticky sauce. Sure, it takes away some of the crispiness, but you’re left with this face-messing, finger-filthying layer of heaven surrounding moist, flavourful chicken.

I found some beautiful jumbo tiger prawns at the fish market recently and wanted to try something interesting with them. 

So I combined the principles of Korean fried chicken with my favourite Korean ingredient- a spicy fermented chilli paste called gochujang (available at any Asian grocer), and came up with these sticky, fiery beauties.

Serve with kimchi, or a simple salad of shredded cabbage.

Recipe: Korean Fried Gochujang Prawns
Makes 8-12 prawns, depending on size.

8-12 prawns, as large as you can find, shelled and de-veined

1 egg white
50g glutinous rice flour (available at Asian grocers)
40g potato starch (available at Asian grocers)
40g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
100ml very cold water

50g extra potato starch for dusting

2 tbsp gochujang chilli paste (available at Asian grocers)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil

Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until combined. Simmer for 5 minutes until sticky, then remove from heat.

Heat oil suitable for deep frying (canola, grapeseed, vegetable) in a large, heavy saucepan to 180C.

Put all batter ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Coat prepared prawns in extra potato starch, and shake to get rid of any excess. Toss through batter until covered then, no more than five at a time, lower carefully into oil.

Fry for roughly 4 minutes, turning if necessary, until they begin to go golden, and rest on a baking rack for 2 minutes (putting them straight onto paper towel will make them go soggy). Repeat until all prawns are cooked.

Transfer sauce into a large bowl, then add all the prawns at once and toss until coated in the sticky sauce.