Recipe courtesy of mfk.

Crunchy Prawn Heads with XATO Sauce

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 40 min
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Dry Tempura Mix:

1 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup all-purpose flour 

1/2 cup cake flour 

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt 

1 tablespoon baking powder 


4 cups canola or frying oil

24 medium prawns, head on 

4 lemon wedges 

1 tablespoon smoked paprika 

XATO sauce, recipe follows

4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces 

XATO Sauce:

1 cup cherry tomatoes

3/4 cup piquillo peppers 

1/4 cup whole almonds with skins 

3 tablespoons chopped shallots 

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped parsley 

3 cloves garlic

1 Fresno chile pepper 

1/4 cup sherry vinegar 

1 tablespoon water 

1 teaspoon honey 

1/3 cup dried bread 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 


  1. For the dry tempura mix: Whisk together the cornstarch, all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. For the prawns: Place the canola oil in a large saucepan and warm to 350 degrees F.
  3. Cut the tails off the prawns just below the heads and reserve the tails for another use. Place the prawns in a sieve over the dry tempura mix. Spoon a generous portion of the tempura mix over the prawns and shake off the excess in the sieve. Once the prawns are lightly dusted they are ready to fry.
  4. Place the prawns in the preheated oil and cook until pink and lightly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted strainer and blot on paper towels.
  5. To assemble: Dip one side of the lemon wedges in the smoked paprika. Spoon a generous portion of the XATO sauce in the center of 4 shallow bowls. Arrange 6 cooked prawn heads in the center of the sauce. Top with the basil and set a paprika-lemon wedge next to the prawns and enjoy!

XATO Sauce:

Yield: 1 cup.
  1. Place the tomatoes, piquillo peppers, almonds, shallots, parsley, garlic, Fresno chile, vinegar, water and honey in a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Add the bread and puree until very smooth. Slowly stream in the olive oil over low speed until it is fully incorporated and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.