You can’t throw a hot dog bun without hitting a lobster roll in town these days. But not everyone can afford this pricey, posh sandwich. Enter the New England-style prawn roll. We spent about $30 on the ingredients for four of these rolls ― the minimum price of one good lobster roll in a restaurant. This isn’t some poor knock-off of the lobster roll, but a dish in its own right. You’ll see it on the menus of upscale seafood shacks across Maine. When cooked right, fresh prawn meat can be almost as sweet and delicate as lobsters’. That’s why it’s important to poach the prawns rather than boil the life out of them. The rest is simple: a generously buttered, griddled hot dog bun (no need for artisanal dough; Gardenia works just fine) and a bit of mayo.
400g tiger prawns, shelled and deveined (buy about double the weight with shell on)
6 tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning (replace with black pepper if preferred)
3 tbsp celery, finely chopped (optional)
½ tsp salt
a small spritz of fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp unsalted butter + a bit extra
4 hot dog buns
a handful of fresh chives, chopped
1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add prawns and turn off the heat.
2. Cover the pot and allow prawns to poach for 5 min, or until fully cooked. They should be completely opaque.
3. Remove the prawns and drain. Pat dry with paper towels.
4. Cut prawns into large chunks and place in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning (or black pepper), celery (if any), salt and lemon juice. Mix. Taste and add more mayo or salt if desired. If not using immediately, cover and chill for up to a day.
5. To prepare buns, melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Slice each bun length-wise so it opens like a book. Leave a ‘hinge’ ― do not cut bread all the way through.
6. Place the bun, sliced side down onto the skillet and fry for a min, or until golden-brown. Flip bun over and fry the other side for a min. Add more butter if it looks dry. Remove from heat and repeat with the rest of the butter and buns.
7. To serve, portion the prawn filling into each bun. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.
Ed’s note: If you want your hotdog buns to resemble authentic New England split top buns used in lobster rolls, slice off ¼-inch crust from both sides to reveal the interior. Butter and fry the two exposed flat sides instead.
Photo: Kelvin Chia