Grilled Prawns With Gac Salt

This content is also available in: Vietnamese

Co Ba of Quang Nam Home Kitchen, Top 3 Masterchef, Vietnam

My childhood was spent on an alluvial-rich, fish-abundant river.

I still remember when the tide was high, my sister and I cast a net and were able to scoop up a bucket of tiny shrimps and white fish.

My house was right by the river. Dad set up a weir to collect countless tench fish. Sometimes we couldn’t eat all of them and we could sell them in the local market.

In rainy seasons, fishing rods were planted along the river in the dusk, and at dawn, they were filled with perch and snakehead fish. We rode boats to pluck some sesbania sesbans flowers to serve with sour soup and braised perch fish to serve with longan.

I grew up by the river. At the break of day, I heard the sounds of sloshing oars, shrill calls and warm greetings from boaters that echoed all over the long river.

I remember thick carpets of water hyacinth floating on the water that despite the chilly morning air but my mom and I were sweating riding our boat around the bend to get to the the marketplace in time when it opened at sunrise.

The river is familiar and dear to me, full of fond memories and also fraught with hardship. Yet, whenever I see a river in my life’s journey, I still recall my hometown river, where I grew up and from which I eventually departed.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg prawns
  • 20 skewers
  • Onion-infused cooking oil

Gac (Spiny bitter gourd) sauce

  • 200g red and yellow flesh of gac
  • 1 red chilli, remove seeds
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 4 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 tsp. salt

Fish sauce stock

  • 50g rock sugar
  • 100ml fish sauce
  • 100ml coconut juice

Directions:

Gac sauce

  • Chop chili, bell pepper, and onion, blend with the flesh of gac into a fine mixture.
  • Heat the mixture in a saucepan and evenly stir, add salt. When the mixture gets condensed, add cooking oil and stir evenly.

Fish sauce stock

  • Cook rock sugar with coconut juice, add fish sauce and boil till condensed.

Prawns

  • Marinate prawns with fish sauce stock, onion-infused oil and gac sauce for around 15 minutes. Thread onto skewers and grill on hot charcoal BBQ. Brush the gac sauce to keep prawns from drying and give them beautiful colour. Serve with chili salt.