Sizzling rice prawns with curried celery

This dramatic dish is sure to earn you compliments. It is moderately easy to make, but requires organisation and some experience of Chinese cooking. The key is that the prawn sauce and rice cake should both be fairly hot - you will then achieve a dramatic sizzle when the two are combined.

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For the rice cake

  • 225g/8oz long grain rice
  • 2-3 tsp groundnut oil, plus 1.2 litres/2 pints groundnut oil for deep-frying

For the prawns

For the sauce

For the stir-fried curried celery


  1. To make the rice cake, wash the rice and put it into a 24cm/9in wide, heavy-based saucepan with 600ml/1 pint water. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then turn the heat down as low as possible, cover and cook for about 45 minutes. The rice should form a heavy crust on the bottom, but not burn. Remove all the loose rice - it can be used for making fried rice.

  2. Drizzle the two teaspoons of oil evenly on top of the rice crust and let it cook over a very low heat for about five minutes. The crust should now lift off easily. If it's sticky, add another teaspoon of oil and continue to cook until it becomes loose. Place on a plate and put to one side. Once cooled and dried, break into small pieces.

  3. For the prawns, use a small, sharp knife to split each prawn open lengthways, leaving it still attached at the back. Open the prawns out so that they splay open into a butterfly shape. Wash the prawns and dry them.

  4. Heat a wok until it is very hot and then add the two tablespoons of groundnut oil. When the oil is very hot and lightly smoking, add the ginger and stir-fry it quickly for a few seconds, then add the garlic and spring onions.

  5. After a few seconds add the prawns and stir-fry them quickly until they become firm.

  6. Add all the sauce ingredients, except the cornflour paste and sesame oil, and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflour paste.

  7. Return to the heat and bring back to the boil. Stir in the sesame oil and then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Keep hot until ready to serve.

  8. For the curried celery, trim the base of the celery and all the top leaves. Separate the stalks. With a small sharp knife remove the strings from the tough stalks. Chop the stalks into 2.5cm/1in sections.

  9. Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the celery and continue to stir-fry for one minute.

  10. Add the rice wine, curry powder, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper and continue to stir-fry another minute. Then add three tablespoons of water and continue to cook over high heat for 3-4 minutes until just tender. When ready to serve, sprinkle the mixture with the spring onions and fresh coriander, mix well, pour unto a platter.

  11. Meanwhile, to finish the rice cakes, heat the groundnut oil in a wok or deep-fat fryer until it is very hot (CAUTION: Hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended).

  12. Drop a small piece of the dried rice cake into the oil to test the temperature - it should bubble all over and immediately come up to the surface.

  13. When the oil is hot enough, deep-fry the pieces of rice cake for about 1-2 minutes or until they puff up and brown slightly.

  14. Remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and drain them on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

  15. Quickly transfer the pieces of hot rice cake to a warm platter and pour the hot prawns over them, taking care as it may splatter. It should sizzle dramatically. Serve at once with the dish of curried celery alongside.

Recipe Tips

The oil used for deep-frying the rice cake can be saved and re-used once it has cooled. Filter it through coffee filter papers before storing it.