Healthier choice recipe: Mediterranean grilled prawns

SINGAPORE - My husband loves prawns, but there is such bad press about eating them that he eats just one with much guilt.

You see, for a long time, everyone believed that as prawns were full of cholesterol, eating them would raise one's blood cholesterol level.

While seafood contains cholesterol, as do eggs, livers and kidneys, the new findings are that this does not make much difference to the level of cholesterol in the blood.

What matters is that you eat food that is low in saturated fat.

As the Medical Research Council in Britain stated: "Individuals with high blood cholesterol often mistakenly seek out and actively avoid foods that are rich in cholesterol such as shellfish and eggs, whereas the key issue is to decrease (the consumption of) saturated fatty acids."

To confirm the new thinking, a study, headed by University of Surrey Professor Bruce Griffin, found that prawn consumption had absolutely no effect on blood cholesterol levels.

In that study, two groups of people ate only prawns or surimi, which is imitation crab made out of fish, for 12 weeks.

The prawn diet contained nearly four times the amount of dietary cholesterol as that of the surimi diet, but at the end of the trial, the researchers found that the consumption of prawns had no significant effect on blood cholesterol levels, as compared with the control group.

But if you persist in clinging to old beliefs, be consoled that the cholesterol in prawns is found mostly in the head, while the body is relatively pristine.

And know that experts now agree that eating fish, prawns and shellfish can be good for you.

Like fish, they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are thought to promote a healthy heart.

Which is great news for me, for I love all manner of seafood.

I make stock out of prawn shells (dry fry the shells first, then add water and bring it to the boil), which I then use for soup, braised dishes such as Hokkien mee or as the base for my assam pedas or spicy tamarind dishes.

I add chopped prawn to minced pork, before using the mix to make balls with a deeper flavour.

Of course, I also fry prawns, marinated with assam or tamarind or, as in this recipe, grill them Mediterranean style.

I learnt to do this in Australia, where barbecuing prawns is pretty much a summer pastime.

And I found it easy to do even indoors in a Singapore kitchen, if you have a grill pan (with ridges), over the stove top.

Nothing could be simpler or quicker.

In fact, the whole thing can be done while the rice is cooking.

Then, all you need to do is to fix salad, using one of those bags of prewashed salad leaves and just adding olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper as dressing.

Easy, except perhaps for the threading of the prawns onto sticks, which you could ask your family to help you with.

The peeled prawns are merely tossed in olive oil with herbs and garlic, then grilled over the hot coals (or in a grill pan) for mere minutes before they are ready.

Just allow the flesh to sear and become opaque and aromatic.

Indeed, now that prawns have come out of the cold, I could dine on them many times in the week.

Recipe: Mediterranean grilled prawns

Recipe: Mediterranean grilled prawns
(Serves two to four)


1 tsp dried mixed Mediterranean herbs, or just dried rosemary
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
500g medium prawns, peeled with tails intact
Spray can of canola or olive oil
Metal skewers or bamboo, soaked
Lemon slices
Brown rice for two to four people, cooked
1 bag prewashed salad
Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste


1. Combine the herbs and garlic in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Then add the prawns.

3. Allow them to marinate, covered, in the refrigerator, for about half an hour or up to five hours, tossing them occasionally.

4. Place a grill pan, sprayed with oil, on the stove and heat it till it becomes hot.

5. In the meantime, thread the prawns on skewers, putting about three on each stick.

6. Place the skewers of prawns on the hot pan and grill the prawns until they just become opaque, which will take about 2 minutes per side.

7. Arrange the skewers on a platter. Garnish them with lemon slices.

8. Serve them with brown rice and green salad - dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper - on the side.

Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer.

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