Which is a waste. And most other times, especially in Chines cooking, they will simply cook the prawns shell on, with the belief that the flavors will come through better.
The truth is, prawns should always be cooked after they have been peeled, but you should make full use of the heads and shells to either make a delicious broth or a beautiful sauce.
The other thing you can do with the heads is to actually deep fry them until they are crunchy, very much like soft shell crabs. And to illustrate this, I decided to make an entire dish out of this, and do a more fanciful plating.
The recipe is actually deep fried prawn heads, with butter roasted chicken and eggplants and served with a lemon shrimp sauce.
To begin with, cut half an eggplant into chunks. Layer a pan with knobs of butter and place the eggplants on top of them. Season with pepper and drizzle some olive oil over it to prevent it from getting too dry.
Next, roast the eggplants in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 160 or 180 deg C. Get a couple of chicken fillets, but do not cut them first as I prefer to cook them whole to retain all the beautiful chicken juices inside. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
After the 20 minutes are up, remove the pan of eggplants and add in the chicken fillets and return them to the oven for another 15 minutes for the chicken to cook through.
To make the sauce, take about 6 to 8 prawn shells and put them in a saucepan with lots of cold butter and cook them until the butter melts. As the butter is melting, add in a teaspoon of flour and use the butter to stir the flour until the flour is fully incorporated into the butter.
Next, slowly add in ladle by ladle of chicken stock until the prawn sauce is formulated. Adjust until it is nice and syrupy without being either too thick or too watery. To finish off, add in some fresh lemon juice and taste to make sure its not too acidic.
As an option, you can add in either chopped spring onions or chopped herbs like thyme to further enhance the sauce.
As for the prawns, saute them in a oil for a minute and remove from fire. Do not overcook the shrimp as you want to retain a nice crunchy texture of perfectly cooked prawns.
Finally, the prawn heads. Season lightly with some salt and pepper and simply fry them in a pot of clean oil for a few minutes until they are crispy. Avoid over frying it as it will be burnt and bitter.
To plate, simply arrange the individual components on a flat white plate in an elegant pose and spoon some sauce around it. Garnish with additional herbs or spring onion to finish off with some bright color.
And there you have it, a delicious surf n turf dish that looks as elegant as any fine dining dish out there. What you will get from this plate is the freshness of the prawns, the savory and acidic sauce, the rich buttery sweetness of the eggplants and a tender protein to come together as a balanced dish.