If you buy whole prawns, about half the weight is in the head and shell and only half is the prawn meat itself, so be sure to bear this in mind when thinking about what quantity to buy.
The method is really very simple, but it’s worth doing properly. In my opinion there’s not much worse than getting a prawn with poo in it – which is what the black intestinal thread contains – even so, I’ve been in many five-star restaurants where the prawns have not been cleaned properly. So, make a little effort and get it right.
As you can see in the photo above, there are just a few steps to go through. Working from left to right and top to bottom, we start with the whole prawn and end up with the butterflied prawn on the bottom right.
1. Take hold of the prawn and twist the head off. Then, using your fingers, pull the shell and legs off the body. The usual presentation is to leave the tail on.
Cook’s Note – don’t throw the heads and shells away, they can be used to make a tasty stock for a soup or to add flavour to other fish dishes.
Now you are ready to clean and butterfly your prawns.
2. Using a sharp knife slit the prawn down the back, and using either a knife or your fingers, remove the intestinal tract. Throw it away – yuk!
3. Rinse the cleaned prawn in cold water and pat dry.
The close-up photo shows a prawn after having the head and shell removed. Below it is one where I’ve split the back, showing the intestinal thread still in there. And finally, the end result – a clean and butterflied prawn.
You can use these for all sorts of things such as salads, soups, and curries.