There are many prawns and even shrimp available, but they’re not the same! Read on to find out the perfect match for any recipe.
From mouth-watering mee siam to “sambal udang” (prawn sambal), it’s pretty clear that Singaporeans love their prawns. Prawns are just one of the many shellfish that contribute to the average Singaporean’s seafood consumption of 22kg per annum. That’s higher than the global average of 20kg¹!
Learn more about what’s available locally with the 4 types of prawns and how to cook them!
Prawns vs. shrimp: what’s the difference?
Both terms are used interchangeably so much so that it’s no surprise that people think they’re the same thing. Or that they just differ by size or names across countries, regions, and states.
Like how Americans love their shrimp, and Aussies and Singaporeans love their prawns.
The confusion can get even the best of us at times.
Prawns and shrimp belong to a group of marine crustaceans known as decapods, where they both should have an exoskeleton and ten legs². The similarities end there!
Small, and can even be tiny
Like dried shrimps (“hae bee hiam”)!
Sweeter and can be stronger-flavoured
Delicate and mild
In fact, the delicate flavour of shrimps can really shine when seasoned “shrimp-ly” (pun intended!) with soy sauce, garlic, ginger or other ingredients.
1. Black Tiger Prawn
The black tiger prawn is also known as “Gao Chap Hei” in Singapore. The literal translation from Hokkien is “nine stripes” — a visible physical feature on the shell that distinguishes it from other types of prawns⁴. It has now grown to become one of the most commercially viable types of prawn distributed in Singapore and across the world!
What it tastes like: Distinctively sweet with firm meat and a crunchy texture.
What it’s used for: Stir-fry it with the shell-on in noodles to retain all of its juicy goodness!
2. Vannamei Prawn
The two dominant species of sustainably farmed prawns in the world are the black tiger prawn and vannamei⁵. These vannamei prawns, also known as grey prawns, have a greyish colour.
Vannamei prawns are also available all year round and their versatility makes it great for a myriad of dishes across cuisines!
What it tastes like: Naturally sweet and flavourful with a moderately bouncy texture⁶.
What it’s used for: Poach, steam, bake, grill and even deep-fry them. Get creative in your kitchen — the sky’s the limit!
Fun fact: If you’ve eaten “har gow” (prawn dumplings), a very popular Cantonese dim sum dish, the filling would have most likely been made from vannamei prawns! The slight crunch is always the best part.
Frozen Thawed Grey Prawn
Frozen Thawed Jumbo Grey Prawn
3. White Prawn
Live, frozen thawed and frozen varieties are available in-store
Like the black tiger prawn, white prawns are also affectionately known as “Ang Kar Hei” in Singapore. The literal translation from Hokkien is “red leg prawn”; despite its Hokkien name, however, they don’t always have red legs. It’s actually their shape and colour that makes them more easily identifiable!
What it looks like: Most types measure approximately 15cm and have a transparent yellowish-white or reddish hue⁷. With thin shells and meaty tails, they’re a popular value-for-money choice at the wet market!
What it tastes like: Mild and sweet flavour with a tender texture.
What it’s used for: The mild sweetness complements stronger flavours in rich and creamy dishes well.
Fun fact: White prawns are the choice for many “prawn mee” stalls because of its bouncy, crunch and sweet meat that fuses with a flavourful broth easily!
Recipe to try: Roasted Prawns with Seaweed Butter
4. Red Sea Prawn
Frozen available in-store
Speaking of seeing red, Singapore only began importing red sea prawns for the first time from Saudi Arabia in 2020! The red sea prawn is priced at a premium because they’re harvested from the Red Sea in higher saline levels compared to seawater in other parts of the world⁸.
What it tastes like: Extremely crunchy and flavourful.
What it’s used for: It is recommended to enjoy them with lighter flavours. Pan fry or grill shell-on to retain its natural sea-like flavour.
We hope that you’ve learnt more about the 4 different types of prawns and how to cook them for maximum flavour.
Discover more recipes on how to cook with all the high-quality prawns — live, frozen thawed or frozen — you can find in-store or online at FairPrice! Locate your nearest store here.
¹ Seastainable 2020, Sustainability in Seafood | Singapore, viewed 21 March 2022
² Fact Sheets 2020, Decapods: Order Decapoda, Wild Singapore, viewed 21 March 2022
³ Brown, E 2021, The 10 largest shrimp (and prawn!) in the world, viewed 30 Jan 2023
⁴ All Big Frozen Food Pte Ltd, White prawns, grey prawns, red prawns? Is there a difference?, viewed 21 March 2022
⁵ Gold Coast Tiger Prawns, Farmed prawns: global prawn farming, viewed 21 March 2022
⁶ ieatishootipost 2013, Singapore prawn files: coloured prawns – white, black, yellow, glass, prawns, viewed 23 March 2022
⁷ Dantulari, S 2022, 15 different types of prawns and shrimps for cooking, www.stylesatlife.com, viewed 23 March 2022
⁸ Tan, C 2020, Singapore imports frozen shrimps from Saudi Arabia for the first time, The Straits Times, viewed 24 March 2022