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Salt and Pepper Prawns with Dipping Sauce

Salt and pepper prawns are a popular Chinese takeaway dish that fizzes with the flavour Szechuan peppercorns, black peppercorns & chilli.

My fakeaway version of this recipe comes with a chilli dipping sauce and is super quick to cook, making it faster and cheaper than a takeaway!

Overhead salt and pepper prawns with a chilli dipping sauce and soba noodle salad.

Chinese Takeaway Style Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Chinese salt and pepper dishes date back well over a thousand years however the Anglo Chinese version has its “home” in 1960’s Liverpool.

Growing up in 1970’s & 80’s Birmingham the simple yet delicious pairing had yet to make a dent. In fact, it was still relatively rare as late as the early 2000’s.

Now it is everywhere, and it has become a firm favourite on our table and salt and pepper prawns (or shrimp) are my latest offering.

They join salt and pepper chips, salt and pepper squid, salt and pepper chicken and even salt and pepper tofu!

It’s a super simple recipe, the shrimp are dredged in cornflour that is flavoured with Szechuan pepper, black pepper and Chinese five spice before being quickly fried.

Then they are tossed through a little spring onion, fresh chilli and of course plenty of course sea salt.

It’s quick too, this will go from your freezer to your table in well under 30 minutes!

Close-up Chinese salt and pepper prawn dipped into a chilli dipping sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use frozen prawns or shrimp?

Yes, I always do!

What’s the best way to defrost prawns?

I usually place them in a sieve or colander and run them under cold water for 5 minutes.

What size prawns should I use?

I use size 20-25 head-off shell-off prawns, which is a measure of how many you get per pound.

What is “crispy chilli in oil”?

It is a Chinese condiment that I use in everything from my crispy chilli beef to my tofu noodle stir fry. I use the Lao Gan Ma brand.

Is there a substitute for Szechuan pepper?

No, it is a really unique ingredient without any satisfactory substitutions.

How important is the oil temperature?

Oil temperature is critical when “deep” frying, if the oil is not hot enough the thing you are frying will begin soaking up oil making it soggy, fatty and very calorific.

Frying at an appropriate temperature is quick and leaves wonderfully crisp food.

Chinese salt and pepper prawns with a chilli dipping sauce and soba noodle salad.

Serving Suggestions

These salt and pepper prawns are pictured here with my chilli dipping sauce and glorious cold soba noodle and cucumber salad.

But these little shrimp bites work equally well with warm noodle dishes too. They would be just as good with my sweet chilli noodles as they would with these simple soy sauce noodles.

Pickles are another wonderful option to serve with “salt and pepper” anything as far as I am concerned. The acidity is perfect with Chinese five spice, the zing of Szechuan pepper and the heat of the chilli.

They needn’t take forever to make either, both my pickled cucumber and pickled daikon are done and dusted in around 30 minutes.

If you want some greens then how about adding a side of my stir-fried asparagus or even broccoli stir-fry, both would be awesome dipped in that smokey spicy sauce!

You could even serve these with egg-fried rice and pour over the dipping sauce if you wish!

Close-up Chinese salt and pepper prawns.

Equipment Used

I only name-check brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • Wok.
  • An optional nonstick frying pan.
  • Slotted spoon.
  • Thermometer for checking oil temperature. I use a sugar thermometer.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring cups and spoons.
  • Mixing bowl and stirring spoons.
Salt and pepper prawns with a spicy dipping sauce served with a soba noodle salad.
Yield: 2 Servings

Quick Salt and Pepper Prawns Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

My Chinese fakeaway version of salt and pepper prawns (or shrimp) comes with a delicious crispy chilli dipping sauce and the unmistakable flavour of Szechuan peppercorns.


  • 450g (1 lb) Medium Sized Prawns
  • 50g (⅓-½ Cup) Cornflour
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Coarse Sea Salt plus extra for serving
  • 1 Tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 Tbsp Szechuan Peppercorns
  • 1 Medium Hot Red Chilli Pepper
  • 3 Spring Onions
  • Plus Oil for Frying

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
  • ½ Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Crispy Chilli in Oil (I use Lao Gan Ma)
  • 1 Garlic Clove


  1. If your prawns are frozen defrost them by running them under cold water
  2. Peel and mash the garlic clove for the dipping sauce and place it in a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients for the dipping sauce to a bowl, give it a whisk and set aside.
  4. Dry the prawns on kitchen paper.
  5. Heat a wok over a high heat and then toast the Szechuan peppercorns then crush them in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.
  6. Remove the seeds from the chillies and dice them as finely as you can.
  7. Slice the spring onions at a 45° angle as thinly as you can.
  8. Place the cornflour on a plate and add the ground Szechuan pepper, black pepper, five spice and coarse sea salt and give everything a mix.
  9. Heat 2-2½cm (1") of oil in a wok to 180°C or 350°F and then dip the prawns into the cornflour mix and fry for 1-2 minutes, do this in 3 batches, you can keep the prawns warm in a low oven.
  10. When the prawns are cooked you can either drain all but a scant coating of oil from the wok, or heat 1 tablespoon of additional oil in a separate nonstick frying pan.
  11. Add the diced chilli and spring onions and fry over a very hot heat for 30-60 seconds.
  12. Throw in the fried prawns and toss to coat before serving sprinkled with more coarse sea salt.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 554Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 476mgSodium: 4651mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 56g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

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