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Butter prawns (Nai yow ha)

Australian Gourmet Traveller Malaysian banquet recipe for butter prawns (nai yow ha)

By Tony Tan
  • Serves 6
Butter prawns (Nai yow ha)
Butter prawns (Nai yow ha)

This is a signature dish but no one knows precisely when it was created. Most Malaysian food writers believe it originated in a Chinese restaurant in Johor nearly 20 years ago and there are now several versions. Combining Malay, Chinese, Indian and western ingredients, as well as Chinese cooking techniques, this is a delicious example of a truly Malaysian dish.


  • 500 gm medium green prawns
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 90 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 50 curry leaves
  • 5-12 small red chillies, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp light soy sauce
  • 30 gm desiccated coconut, toasted
  • 2-3 tsp white sugar, to taste


  • 1
    Season prawns with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  • 2
    Heat 5cm of oil in a wok over medium-high heat, add prawns and fry, in batches, for 2 minutes or until just cooked. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
  • 3
    In a clean wok heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt to yolks, add to wok and stir briskly with a fork to form strands. Remove.
  • 4
    Melt butter in wok over medium-high heat and fry curry leaves for 10 seconds, then add chilli and garlic, fry for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add prawns, soy sauce and coconut, cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add egg and sugar and toss. Season and serve immediately.


Drink Suggestion: A really ripe, tropical-fruity verdelho. Drink suggestion by Max Allen

  • Author: Tony Tan