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Har Lok (Prawns in Spicy Fermented Bean Paste)

Har lok

Har Lok

Har Lok combines 3 of my favourite ingredients – prawns, spicy fermented bean paste and lots lots lots of shallots!  I have always loved mum’s har lok and she only makes it during extra special occasions because prawns are expensive.  Certainly feeding a hungry family of five with prawns is a pretty expensive affair 🙂  Now that I’m here in Melbourne and mum’s in Malaysia, I really really miss her special dish.  So, I’ve decided to give it a try to cure the “I miss home” syndrome.

Har Lok

Since I love shallots very much, I have improvised mum’s recipe and added lots and lots of shallots to give that extra flavour and aroma.  The prawns must be fresh so if you decide to cook this dish, buy the prawns on the same day so you get that fresh sweet crunch from the prawns when you bite into them.  Keep the prawns whole with their shell on but remove their heads and trim the legs off.  Keep the heads – you will know why (see methods below).  Oh, and remember to devein them too.  You don’t want to eat those icky bicky bits of black things 🙂

Har Lok is not har lok without it’s finger lickin’ sauce.  The sauce is made up of 2 things – the bean paste and prawn heads.  I used the spicy fermented bean paste in a jar which can be found at every Asian Grocer in China Town.  If you prefer non spicy version, buy the original fermented bean paste, then add chilli sauce according to taste when preparing the sauce.  Since my mum made it spicy, I followed her method because it certainly was super delicious – especially the leftover sauce which I can mop up with steamed rice and my fingers.  Super finger lickin’ good!

Har Lok (Prawns in Spicy Fermented Bean Paste) 

Serves 4

16 large prawns, heads and legs removed, washed and deveined (keep the heads)
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 shallots, roughly chopped
4 tbsp spicy fermented bean paste
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water (adjust according to the consistency you want)
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
Pinch of salt
Cut red chilli or coriander, for garnish
Peanut oil

1. Prepare the sauce by adding the bean paste, sugar, tomato sauce, oyster sauce into a bowl.  I always like to taste little by little when I add the ingredients so I can adjust the taste according to my preference.  Mix well and set aside.

2. Heat up 2 tbsp of peanut oil in a wok.  Now, press and flatten the previously reserved prawn heads with a knife.  When the oil is hot enough, throw in the prawn heads and fry until crisp.  Why heads?  I like the heads because they flavour the oil and leave a prawny aroma.  Once the heads crisp up – remove them from the wok and set aside.  Now, throw in the prawns and fry until 70% cooked.   Remove the prawns and set aside.

3. Leave the remaining prawn-infused oil in the wok.  If there’s not enough oil, top up with 1 tbsp of peanut oil.  Heat up the oil again.  Once it’s hot, add the shallots and fry for about 1 minute and then throw in the garlic.  Fry till fragrant.

4. Now, add the sauce and mix well with the shallots and garlic.  Depending on how much sauce you want, add in the water little by little until you’ve reached your desired consistency.  If you’ve added too much water, you can add in a little bit of corn flour as that will help to thicken.

5. Add the prawns back into the sauce and ensure the prawns are mixed well into the sauce.  Leave it to infuse for 1-2 minutes until the prawns are just cooked.

6. As the final touch, season with salt and taste.  Once you’re happy with the taste and the prawns are cooked to perfection, dish them up onto a serving plate.  Garnish with coriander or cut chilli.

7. Serve hot with warm steamed rice and fried prawn heads.


Har lok


  1. Dear Burp Appetit,

    This is a beautiful recipe and it reminds me of all those huge fresh water prawns in Malaysia. I wonder why I never cooked this dish in Sydney when seafood is so fresh here too!! Thanks for an awesome looking recipe.

    • Hi Chopin and my Saucepan…what a cute name!

      Yes, you should try this dish especially when you can find fresh produce in Sydney. Might as well take advantage of it. I’m so envious of you right now!

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