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a plate of Vietnamese tamarind prawns
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5 from 9 votes

Vietnamese Tamarind Prawns (Tôm Rang Me)

With half an hour and a handful of ingredients, you get the most delicious Vietnamese tamarind prawns with the perfect balance of heat, sweet, salty, and tang.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Vy Tran


  • 1 pound spot prawns or extra-jumbo shell-on shrimp, preferably head-on
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon peppercorns
  • ½ cup tamarind sauce
  • 1 bird eye's chili, thinly sliced and extra for serving
  • ¼ cup basil leaves

Tamarind sauce

  • ½ cup tamarind water
  • 2 tbsps fish sauce
  • 2 tbsps sugar

Tamarind water

  • 2 ounces tamarind paste
  • ¾ cup boiling water


  • To make the tamarind water, soak the tamarind paste in boiling water for 5 minutes breaking up any chunks with a spoon. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Pass the mixture through a sieve to get the tamarind water.
  • To make the tamarind sauce, in a bowl whisk together tamarind water, fish sauce, and sugar until well combined.
  • Add the oil, garlic, and shallots to a hot pan. Saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the peppercorns and prawns and toss for 2 minutes.
  • Pour the tamarind sauce over the prawns and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add 2 tbsps basil leaves and chili and cook for another 2 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through.
  • Remove the prawns and transfer them to a serving plate.
  • Let the sauce cook on high heat for 10 minutes until it becomes thicker.
  • Pour the sauce over the prawns. Garnish with more basil and chili and serve immediately.


  • The real key to making this dish successfully is to have the freshest prawns you can get. They are the heroes of this dish.
  • Cook the prawns with shell on to prevent them from shrinking and overcooking.
  • If you love spicy food, add the bird eye’s chili in the beginning when you’re sauteeing the shallot and garlic.
  • For mild heat, add the bird eye’s chili at the end.
  • Cook the sauce by itself for another 10 minutes on high heat to concentrate the flavor.