Cantonese Style Garlic Chili Prawns (Hong Kong Bei Fung Tong Prawns 避風塘炒蝦)

img_0845tI’m pretty excited to share today’s dish with you, which is a personal interpretation of something I grew up eating.  As I have mentioned before, I grew up in Hong Kong where the cuisine is predominantly Chinese but heavily influenced by locally sourced ingredients and Western cooking styles.  For this Cantonese Chili Garlic Prawn, also known as Bei Fung Tong Prawn, I adjusted the spice level and seasonings to my tastes and ingredients that I have access to, but I tried to stay as close to the original as possible.

IMG_0846Bei Fung Tong refers to the typhoon shelter bays in Hong Kong.  In the old days, the bays served to protect fisherman’s boats against strong, rough winds. They were filled with floating seafood restaurants serving the freshest catch of the day.  Nowadays, Bei Fung Tong seafood refers to the unique cooking style that originated from the boat dwellers: seafood that has been deep fried to develop a crispy golden crust, and then stir fried with copious amount of garlic, fermented black beans, and chili peppers. Fried breadcrumbs are sometimes added, but I find them a bit greasy so I didn’t add them.

I’m cooking these prawns in Bei Fung Tong style this time. Look at them – they’re gigantic!
It has extremely bold flavors with garlic being the star of the show. And garlicky it is – the highlight of the dish in my opinion is the crunchy bits of deep fried garlic on top.  No worries about vampires after eating all that garlic that’s for sure!

IMG_0828You can serve the prawns on their own, but some people enjoy them on steamed rice or vermicelli to soak up all that flavorful garlic chili mixture.  Either way, you’ll ultimately resort to peeling the prawns with your hands.  It’s messy, but definitely finger-lickin’ good!

Cantonese Style Garlic Chili Prawns (Hong Kong Bei Fung Tong Prawns)

Serves: 2-4


4 tbsps garlic, minced, divided
2 lbs fresh jumbo prawns (head and shell on), deveined
1 cup tapioca flour
1 tbsp fermented black beans
2 green chili peppers (or 1 bird's eye chili), sliced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
2 tsps soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Heat one inch of oil in a wok or skillet over high heat.

Deep fry three tablespoons of garlic until golden brown. Set aside.

Dust prawns lightly with tapioca flour. Deep fry until they turn pink and the crust is golden brown. Remove and set aside.

In a wok or skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of garlic, fermented black beans, chili peppers, and ginger slices, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Add wine, soy sauce, and oyster sauce, and sugar to the wok, and cook until the sauce is reduced slightly. Add the prawns and stir to coat with sauce.

Remove ginger slices and top with fried garlic. Serve immediately.


**The supermarkets in Chinatown sell fermented black beans in whole and dried. If only fermented black bean sauce is available, then you can use two teaspoons of the sauce and decrease the amount of soy sauce and oyster sauce accordingly. *Shaoxing wine is a common Chinese cooking wine. Hua Tiao is a high quality one especially good for cooking seafood.

*The cooking time for the prawns depends on the size of the prawns and how hot the oil is; It took me about two minutes. If you are unsure, remove prawns after one minute of deep frying, and cut one in half to see if the prawn is still opaque inside.