Filipino ginataang prawns

Filipino ginataang prawns by Bent Street Kitchen

I think Filipino cuisine is quite unique and it gives me pleasure to share one of our tasty dishes today. We do use coconut milk/cream like a lot of other Asian countries but we flavour it differently. My niece Nina is a wonderful chef and I love her "ginataang kuhol" or snails in coconut milk. This is her recipe but I've used prawns and added spinach leaves instead.

Try to avoid using shelled prawns. The head and shell of the prawns, like most shellfish, provide a lot of flavour.


1 dozen whole prawns, trimmed and deveined, head and shells intact

 1/2 c finely chopped red onions

1 T minced garlic

1/2 c finely diced roma tomatoes

1 thumb-size ginger, julienned

1/8 c fish sauce

1/2 - 1 t sugar, to taste

3/4 can of 400 ml coconut cream

2 handfuls of English spinach leaves, roughly torn into large pieces

2 T vegetable oil

hot green or red chillies, optional and to taste



Heat oil in a wok to medium high heat. Add garlic and onions and fry for 2 minutes until onions become translucent. Add ginger and fry for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add tomatoes and fry for 2 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit and the mixture is caramelised.  

Add fish sauce then the prawns. Fry for 1 minute, allowing both sides of the prawns to cook evenly. Add coconut cream and sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and cook until leaves are wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Serves 2-3 or 3-4 as part of a banquet.

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Nina's ginataang kuhol

Nina's ginataang kuhol

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Filipino toyomansi prawns

Filipino Toyomansi Prawns by Bent Street Kitchen

Filipinos love using soy sauce ("toyo") and "calamansi", a citrus fruit we tend to use instead of lemon, in everything. We use it to marinate our barbecued meats and seafood, stewed meats, cured meats and if that's not enough we also use it as a dipping sauce (aka "toyomansi").

Whenever I go home to Manila and have had more pork than I usually consume in a month, which happens within a matter of days, this is the dish I have to help me "detox." Well, sort of. I think detoxing in Manila is next to impossible until you physically fly out of the country. Filipinos love to eat and show their love by relentlessly offering you all manner of temptations around the clock.

I don't really know if there's a proper name for this dish because, as I said, Filipinos use soy sauce and calamansi on so many things. I figure describing the dish as accurately as I can is the way to go in naming it

This dish goes well with some simple sauteed snow peas or green beans.


1 dozen whole king prawns, heads and shells intact, about 440 g

1 T chopped garlic

4 T light soy sauce

1/2 t dark soy sauce

2 T fresh lemon juice

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

3 T olive oil


Using a small sharp knife, make a slit along the back of the prawn and remove the dark vein. If you want to butterfly the prawns, you can cut all the way through the belly side of the prawns. I've left the heads intact because they add a lot to the flavour of this dish.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, soy sauces, lemon juice and some freshly cracked pepper. Place prawns in a shallow non-metallic tray and drizzle with marinade, making sure all the prawns are well coated.  Marinate for 10-15 minutes. Drain.

Heat 1 T of olive in a large fry pan over medium heat. Fry half of the prawns about 1 minute on each side. Add some oil if the pan looks dry. Place prawns in a serving dish. Repeat for remainder of the prawns.

Optional: drizzle prawns with extra virgin olive oil or melted butter; or, if you love garlic like the Filipinos, fry about 1 T of chopped garlic in some olive oil or butter until they're golden brown and drizzle it over the prawns.

Serves 4.

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