Tamarind Prawns (Tôm Rang Me)

Recipe By: Lindsey D
Experience Level: Easy

Growing up in a third world country a middle-class family, having chicken was definitely a treat let alone having shrimp and seafood on the dinner table. I remember very clearly the first time my mom made tamarind prawns for our family. Oh boy, my taste buds went wild every time. As time went on, my family and I were lucky enough to be sponsored over to America by my uncle. I was 8 years old then, and my parents have waited 10 long years for their application to finally went through. The taste and smell of tamarind shrimps of course came with me. Here in America, I was amazed at the gigantic size of prawns compared to the shrimps we had in Saigon.

Prawns cooked in a tamarind sauce are by no means a unique dish in the Vietnamese cuisine book. It is rather common in most of the Vietnamese restaurants around my new hometown in Westminster, California. Yet, I didn’t find the restaurant's version of it completely satisfying unless it was homemade by my mom. Since my mom never writes her own recipe and does everything to taste, it is quite difficult to narrow down the specifics when we live far apart. On my quest in finding delicious Vietnamese recipes that I can mimic and share with my food lover friends, I have found this nostalgic dish of tamarind prawns recipe from my very own friend on Facebook. Her name is Karen Quế Phạm and she was born in Bến Tre, Vietnam, but lived in the countryside Long An. Same as me, she also came to the US when she was 8. At the age of 5, Karen has already learned to master the art of starting a fire from scratch and cooking for her family. Cooking was an everyday task that was familiar and not too exciting for her, as life went on into marrying the love of her life and had two daughters.

It wasn’t until recently when Karen lost her husband to cancer, that she began to look for a hobby to take her mind off of things. The wonderful memories of family gatherings around the table at dinner time came flooding back. Karen’s love for food became her savior and passion. She learned how to take photos and decorate her Vietnamese food dishes to showcase a story. Her unique style of food decoration and photography brings out the best in every meal.

Karen was gracious enough to give me permission to post all of her recipes and food pictures to the VietChef community. It did not take any persuasion at all when I approached her, as she wants everyone to be inspired and be able to recreate good food like she is able to provide to her family. If you are inspired by this story, please show Karen Quế Phạm your support by sharing her recipe and voting her recipes to the top of the food blog. For the best result, Karen says size does matter. You should use prawns that are fresh and firm and the bigger the better. Why do small when you can go big right?

I hope you will enjoy this Tamarind Prawns Recipe like I did. It is an easy and straight forward Vietnamese recipe that will have you licking from your bowl. Served with a bowl of hot rice or whatever carbs you enjoy.

Before we start, there are a few seafood wholesalers/food distributors on our website that do overnight shipping so if you live in an area that lacks good seafood, maybe give them a try and see how you like them.. Let’s start:

Recipe & Photos: Karen Quế Phạm

Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
2 servings

How to Make Tamarind Sauce

Step 1
To extract the 3-4 tablespoons of the tamarind paste, take 1 block of concentrate tamarind & cook with 2 cups water until dissolved. Strain and store the extra paste in the fridge for future use.
Step 2
Combined the extracted tamarind paste with the rest of the ingredients until dissolved and set aside.

How to Make Prawns

Step 1
Clean prawns and squeeze out the prawns' roes. Marinate prawns with mushroom or chicken seasoning (Knorr), sugar, salt and annatto oil for at least 5 minutes
Step 2
In a pan add cooking oil and wait until the oil is hot over medium heat. Proceed to add garlic, shallot, chili pepper for the hot oil to extract the flavor slightly.
Step 3
Add shrimp and stir fry.
Step 4
When shrimp is about 70% cooked, slowly add in the prawns' roes mixture & tamarind sauce.
Step 5
Add ½ cup coconut juice. Season again to taste.
Step 6
Cook until prawns are done and set onto a serving plate.
Step 7
Add 1 tbsp butter to sauce and allow to melt into the sauce while it thickens.
Step 8
Spoon sauce over prawns.
Step 9
Garnish with black pepper, cilantro, a wedge of lime, and chili pepper.