COMPLIMENTARY RECIPE: PUMPKIN FLOWERS STUFFED WITH PRAWN AND DILL
"Pumpkin flowers are used mainly in central and southern Vietnamese cooking. They can be tossed into salads, stir-fried, put in a clear soup, or stuffed and flash-fried. Out of South-East Asia, you may find it difficult to obtain pumpkin flowers, in which case you can use zucchini flowers instead. Dill in Vietnam seems more mild in flavour than in Western countries, so you may like to use a little less here if you find your dill tastes a bit strong." - Luke Nguyen
SERVES 4-6, AS PART OF A SHARED STARTER
150 g (5 ½ oz) peeled and de-veined raw prawns (shrimp)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 garlic clove, finely diced
1 ½ tablespoons pickled dill
12 pumpkin (winter squash) or zucchini (courgette) flowers, stems
intact, stamens removed
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
175 g (6 oz / 1 cup) potato starch or cornflour (corn starch)
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
1 lime, halved
Pound the prawns to a fine pasted using a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the fish sauce, garlic and half the dill, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Knead with your hands for 2 minutes to bring the ingredients together and make a homogeneous mix.
Carefully stuff each pumpkin flower with a teaspoon of prawn paste.
Holding them by the stems, coat each flower with the egg white, then dust each flower with potato starch until dry, shaking the excess starch off.
Add enough oil to one-third fill a large wok or deep saucepan and heat to 180˚C (350˚F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 15 seconds.
Working in three batches, fry the flowers for 1-2 minutes, or until crisp, without allowing them to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Arrange the flowers on a long platter or in individual serving bowls
and garnish with the remaining dill.
Serve as a shared starter with lime halves for squeezing over.