California Spot Prawns with Thai Seasoning. Photo © Dana Gallagher
© Dana Gallagher

California Spot Prawns with Thai Seasoning

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR

The California spot prawn is unusually large, meaty and sweet, which is why it has become such a chef's favorite. David LeFevre isn't afraid to prepare these big prawns with a vibrant Thai marinade and serve them with an array of distinctive accompaniments: minty melon, lime-mashed avocado and cool, creamy cucumber-yogurt sauce. If California spot prawns aren't available, substitute white shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico or just plain, large shrimp.

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  1. 3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  2. 2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
  3. 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  4. 2 kaffir lime leaves or 1-inch-wide strips of lime zest
  5. 1 stalk of lemongrass, bottom 6 inches only, peeled and minced
  6. 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  7. 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
  8. 16 large California spot prawns or shrimp (about 1 pound), shelled and deveined
  9. 1/2 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and coarsely shredded
  10. 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  11. 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  12. 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  13. Pinch of cayenne pepper
  14. 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  15. 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  16. 3 tablespoons very finely chopped cilantro
  17. 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  18. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  19. 1 Charentais melon or 1/2 cantaloupe, rind removed, melon sliced 1/2 inch thick
  20. 2 Hass avocados
  21. 3 tablespoons minced red onion
  22. 1/2 teaspoon minced hot chile
  1. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the lime juice with the grapeseed oil, brown sugar, lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger and fish sauce. Add the shrimp and toss, then refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, squeeze the cucumber to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a small bowl and add the yogurt, shallot, coriander, cayenne, half of the minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of the mint, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon of the lime zest. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the melon slices with 1/2 tablespoon of the lime juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of mint and 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.
  4. In another medium bowl, mash the avocados with the onion, chile and the remaining garlic, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat a grill. Drain the shrimp well. Grill over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a platter and serve with the yogurt sauce, melon and avocado puree.

Suggested Pairing

A white with plenty of crisp acidity, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, will point up both the sweet and sour flavors of these prawns. The best usually come from cool regions like the Santa Ynez Valley (in Santa Barbara County), where the Pacific breezes blow steadily through the vines, producing vibrant wines.