*If you buy prawns in the shell, remove the shell. It’s not necessary to leave the tail attached but I think it makes for better presentation. De-vein the prawns. To get maximum benefit from the prawns, the shells and heads are ideal to make into an excellent stock.
* To devein cooked, shelled prawns, run a sharp knife down the back of the prawn from the top to the tail. There is generally a dark vein, although it is sometimes clear. Remove it with the tip of a knife, your fingers or rinse under a tap. If you rinse the prawn, pat dry with a paper towel.
* Choose lemongrass stalks that are firm and unblemished. With a sharp knife or cleaver, remove the leafy top part. Peel off the tough, outer layers of the lemongrass, until you get to the pale, lower section. Use a sharp knife to chop off the root end.
*The heat from long red chillies varies considerably. Check to ensure how hot it is so you can use an amount to suit your taste. The one I am using today is quite hot, which is what I personally prefer. However, they are sometimes very mild. If you want really hot chilli, I recommend you use the small chillies.
*The shallot will look like a small onion. It has a milder, more delicate flavour than an onion. If your shallots are small I suggest you use 4.
*Kaffir lime leaves are readily available, fresh or frozen, from most Asian grocers. If you are not able to find them, substitute with 1 teaspoon of lime zest.
*For larger gatherings, this recipe is easily doubled.
*For cocktail parties, you could serve individual prawns and some dressing on Chinese spoons or leaves of baby cos lettuce. When serving on Chinese spoons, I chop the prawn into 4 or 5 pieces. If serving on cos lettuce, I recommend you place the salad on the leaves at the last moment to avoid the leaves becoming soggy. Or, you could put the salad on a platter, surrounded by cos leaves, and let the guests assemble their own.
*The dressing can be made the day before and refrigerated until needed.
*The salad ingredients can be prepared in the morning, covered with cling wrap and refrigerated until needed.
*It is best to combine the salad and the dressing at the last moment.
*If you’re uncertain that one of your guests may have a peanut allergy, either omit them completely or serve them in a separate bowl.