How to Make Malaysian Prawn Stock

I’m constantly amazed at the popularity of pre-cooked or de-shelled prawns in seafood shops here in Australia, over and above the raw, shell-intact varieties.

To me, if they’ve been pre-cooked, the shells (not to mention the meat) have lost most of their flavour, and if they’re peeled and treated (ie. what we Asians called “restaurant prawns”) you don’t even have any shells to use for stock.

I get that you’d buy them for reasons of expediency (I do that too, when cooking specific dishes in commercial quantities) but if cooking at home, always try to get raw prawns with shells on. Not only is the meat so much more flavoursome, you can use the shells, and especially the heads, to make prawn stock with, and it is the secret sauce (literally) in taking your cooking to the next level.

By the way, I’m calling it “Malaysian” prawn stock not because I’m claiming Malaysians invented the concept or recipe, but rather that it’s the kind of stock used in a lot of the cooking I do. It’s incredibly versatile and used in many recipes, eg. in soups (Prawn Noodle Soup aka Har Mee, Ipoh Sar Hor Fun etc.) and in sauces, stir-fries (eg. Singapore Hokkien Mee) and even curries.

Here is my recipe (ps. you can omit the garlic to yield a purer product, but because I use garlic extensively in my cooking anyway, I often add it in the stock) –


Prawn heads and shells from 2kg of prawns

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup Garlic, peeled (optional)

4 L Water or chicken stock


1. Heat up oil in stock pot.

2. Add garlic cloves and sauté until lightly browned.

3. Add prawn heads and shells and fry until aromatic.

4. Add water or chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer for at least 45 minutes.

5. Strain and discard shells.

6. Add seasoning e.g. chicken stock granules, white pepper and rock sugar to make prawn noodle soup.

7. Leave unseasoned for use in other recipes. Batch and store in freezer for later use.

ps. My good buddy and Brunei’s #1 food blogger Thanis Lim suggests trimming the prawn eyes off because they can imbue the stock with a bitter flavour; I’m not that sad, I mean, hardcore, (kidding, Thanis!) but it’s something you could certainly do as well.

image of prawn stock

My Prawn Stock – the oil helps bring out the flavour of the shells when sautéing, but you can cut down on it if it you prefer a less oily product.

Share and Enjoy !