KitchenTigress: Har Lok (Dry-Fried Prawns)

Har Lok (Dry-Fried Prawns)

Har lok (干煎虾碌) is a classic Cantonese prawn dish with a slight western influence. Prawns in the shell are marinated with dark soya sauce, pan-fried, then tossed in a sauce. The simple sauce is made with tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. There's lots of delicious umami flavour, and the aroma is irresistible.

Har lok was the prawn dish that ruled the scene before (relative) newbies like cereal prawns and butter prawns usurped its throne.

Back when every household cooked practically everyday and eating out was a rare occasion, har lok was the centrepiece for festive occasions.

It's fallen by the wayside a bit, which is not necessarily a bad thing because that makes room for new dishes. But let's not totally forget the Cantonese classic, shall we?

Strictly speaking, har lok shouldn't be made with whole prawns. It should be made with chopped up pieces because "har lok" means just that, prawn pieces. But the chopped up pieces would be really small unless I have huge – read expensive – prawns.
The scrooge in me forbids paying for big prawns, only to chop 'em up. So please excuse me for making har lok which isn't true to its name, with smaller, cheaper whole prawns.

Chopped up or not, har lok is delicious so long as the prawns are succulent and fragrant.

This is an easy recipe. Your har lok will be delicious so long as the prawns are fresh and not overcooked. Frying prawns in the shell gives them an irresistible aroma. You'll drool before the dish is done. And you'll lick the plate clean after it's done.

har lok
  • 16 prawns, 600 g – trim, devein, rinse, dry thoroughly with paper towels
  • ½ tbsp dark soya sauce
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ⅛ tsp white sesame oil

  1. Marinate prawns with dark soya sauce and salt for 15 minutes.

  2. In a bowl, stir Worcestershire sauce, tomato ketchup and sugar till thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

  3. In a wok or pan, fry prawns in very hot oil over high heat till 70-80% cooked, in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Transfer to a plate.

  4. Drizzle 2 tbsp water around the pan/wok. Swirl to deglaze. Add Worcestershire sauce mixture. Reduce sauce till slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add prawns and toss till well coated and fully cooked. Sprinkle with a few drops of white sesame oil. Plate and serve.