Belinda Jeffery

Fragrant Thai Prawn Cakes

These tender prawn cakes are wonderful as part of a Thai meal, or make the most delicious little mouthfuls to have with a drink: sweet, salty, hot and sour all at once. If you can find betel leaves, the cakes look gorgeous sitting on them – and there’s no need for plates or cutlery, as you can pick up and eat the cakes, leaf and all.

I suggest red curry paste in the recipe but I tend to use whatever I happen to have in the fridge, so there is no need to buy a jar if you have another curry paste on hand.

  • Makes approx 30-36 prawn cakes.


  • 750g *uncooked prawn meat
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Inner heart of 1 large stalk of lemon grass, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 large spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coriander
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, very, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil
  • 3 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste (or your favourite curry paste)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut cream
  • 3 egg whites
  • Light olive oil, for frying
  • Betel leaves, coriander leaves and lime wedges, to serve, optional
  • *Uncooked prawn meat is available frozen. It is terribly handy to use as you don’t have to peel or de-vein the prawns (for which I am very grateful as it’s one of my least favourite jobs!).

Finely chop the prawn meat and scrape it into a medium-sized bowl. (Tempting as it is to do this chopping in a food processor, it’s best not to as it tends to whiz the prawns to a paste, which means you don’t get the nice nubbly texture that hand-chopping gives.) Thoroughly mix in the remaining ingredients, except the oil, leaves, and lime wedges. Don’t be surprised that the mixture is quite wet and sloppy – this is fine, it just needs to hold together. At this stage, you can cover the mixture tightly and keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

When you’re ready to cook the prawn cakes, pour enough oil into a large frying pan to make a layer 1-2mm deep. Heat the oil over low-ish heat. When it’s hot, drop heaped dessertspoonfuls of the prawn mixture into the pan, flattening each mound slightly with the back of the spoon so the cakes are about 8mm thick. (If you would rather something a bit neater, you can scoop the mixture into your hand and shape it – it’s a bit awkward as it’s quite sloppy, but it does work.) Cook the prawn cakes for about 4 minutes on each side, or until they’re golden and cooked through – just be a little careful as you turn them as they are quite delicate. Keep an eye on the oil and make sure it doesn’t get too hot because the coconut cream in the mixture tends to make the cakes brown quickly. As the cakes are ready, transfer them to paper towels or crumpled greaseproof paper to drain. Continue to make cakes with the remaining mixture. When all the prawn cakes are done, sit them on a platter (on betel leaves if you are using them) and press a coriander leaf onto each cake. Serve with lime wedges.