Violet Oon's Laughing Prawns

Violet Oon's Laughing Prawns

In preparation for the Lunar New Year, we had the pleasure of learning how to make Laughing Prawns, or Hee Har Tai Siew, from Singapore culinary icon, Violet Oon. 

A reminder of the joy and laughter that Lunar New Year brings, this succulent prawn dish is rich in both flavour and symbolism. When sharing the meaning behind this dish, Violet revealed that cutting open the back of the prawns n allows the prawns to open up like a flower and "smile", symbolising joy and fortune for the year ahead. This flavourful recipe feeds 3-4, as part of a reunion meal.


  • 500g large thin-shelled prawns
    — Chef Violet prefers using red leg prawns
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese yellow wine (Hua Tiao Jiu)
  • 3 slices young ginger, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 plants spring onions, cut in ½ cm lengths
  • 6 cups vegetable oil

For sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1½ teaspoons corn flour
  • 2 teaspoons fine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce 


  • Trim feelers of prawns and cut off the sharp point of the head. Leave the head and shells on and cut down the whole back of the shell with a pair of scissors.

  • Make a deep cut and remove the black intestinal vein but not the dark greenish vein. This is actually the roe and cooks to a beautiful red colour.

  • Pat prawns dry with paper towels.


    1. Put 6 cups vegetable oil in a non-stick wok and deep fry prawns for a few seconds, stirring constantly. This allows the prawns to be almost cooked. Drain off the oil and put prawns aside.

    2. Keep 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok for a delicious prawn aroma, and turn on high heat. When hot, stir fry ginger for half a minute, and add garlic to fry till light golden.


    3. Add prawns and sprinkle the wine over the sides of the wok to allow it to sizzle. This is important as the wine will taste cooked and not raw.

    4. Stir fry for 30 seconds and move the ingredients to the side of the wok. Add sauce ingredients — mixed beforehand — and stir till it thickens. Add in fried prawns, spring onions, stir, and serve. Enjoy!

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     Enjoyed this recipe?

    We'd love to see your joyous feast featuring the succulent Laughing Prawns. 
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