Heyzor 潮汕虾枣 is one of the most iconic Teochew dishes of all times. On the surface, it may look simple – deep-fried prawn rolls – but when you dig deeper, you’ll realise that a lot of work and experience is required to make this deceptively easy recipe.
A word about Teochew cuisine 潮汕
Teochew 潮汕 is a subset of Minnan culture 闽南, which covers much of modern-day southern Fujian province, Chaoshan region in Guangdong province, the whole of Taiwan, and to a certain extent, the tropical island of Hainan. The Minnan Chinese language predates all other modern Chinese languages, as a direct descendant of Old Chinese with original native Austronesian influences, with sounds and syntax dating back to 1000BC-500BC.
Teochew cuisine is a sub-cuisine of Minnan cuisine, with a lot of stews, a heavy accent on soups and a love for seafood such as oysters and mussels.
Its style is heavily influenced by the Cantonese 广东 cuisine because of its geographical location in the Guangdong province. This is where a lot of foreign influences arrive, compared to core Minnan cuisine, because of Guangdong being a medieval maritime centre, such as the use of basil, tomatoes and chillies.
The Different Versions of Teochew Heyzor 潮汕虾枣
If you look around, especially in mainland China, the non-Teochew mainland Chinese tend to confuse Heyzor with prawn balls. This is because in one version of Heyzor, they do not add tofu wrap and simply deep-fry the ingredients in a ball.
Also, all Heyzor versions need a crunchy vegetable and it really differs from recipe to recipe.
You can either use Chinese celery 芹菜, jicama 沙葛, or water chestnut. The most popular vegetable is water chestnut, which is called Ma Ti 马蹄/马荠 or Bí Jì 荸荠/荸薺 in Mandarin Chinese. In Minnan Chinese, it is called Bè-Tsî 马荠.
The proportion of the prawns and pork also differs greatly. In the original Teochew heartland of Chaoshan, the practice is very much one part pork to four parts prawns.
Big fresh prawns are expensive and hard to come by where I live in Northeast Europe, hence I have used the Singaporean version of this dish, which uses less prawns: one part pork to two parts prawns.
Also, while the pork needs to be really fatty, some original Chaoshan recipes have called for pork fats altogether, which in my opinion is too much if you use the more-pork recipe like I do.
The flour used in the Singaporean recipe is corn starch, while in Chaoshan they tend to use plain flour 面粉, tapioca starch 薯粉，or corn starch 生粉. Note that in this recipe, it is corn starch and NOT corn flour, which is in fact semolina or polenta. Corn starch is not replaceable by corn flour. You can recognise corn starch because it is white and very fine while corn flour or corn meal is yellow and much coarser.
Two things to note when you are making your Teochew Heyzor 潮汕虾枣
Note about the deep-frying: You may need to change the oil, because the dry flour will certainly cloud your oil and interfere with the frying. Because of this, do not cover your heyzor with too much dry flour. Some original Chaoshan recipes call for a wet flour mixture, which in my opinion turns your heyzor into prawn balls – which is where the misunderstanding occurs for the Chinese who know very little about Teochew cuisine. Use a strainer to scoop up the charred flour in your oil from time to time to clear it.
Note about the tofu wrap: Also known as tofu skin or beancurd skin in anglicized places like Singapore and Hongkong, the Chinese name for this is Xianfupi 鮮腐皮, Doufupi 豆腐皮, or Fuzhumo 腐竹膜. It is made with soybeans but has nothing to do with tofu. Available in folded sheets, they are often lightly salted. The longer you keep them, the less pliable they are. When they are not pliable, they crack. It is vital that you buy really fresh tofu wraps so that you won’t have to deal cracks and tears. Also, once you open a pack of tofu wraps, it will dry up and crack within days, so it is important that you use only one pack at a time.
This recipe makes about 8 prawn rolls, which cuts into 4 pieces per roll, will give you 32 heyzors.
- 500g of fresh tiger prawns, shelled and de-veined
- 250g of minced fatty pork
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbs light soy sauce 生抽
- 2 tbs oyster sauce 蚝油
- 1 tsp five spice powder 五香粉
- 1 tbs fish powder (optional)
- A bunch of chopped coriander leaves (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 tbs corn starch (for mixing) 生粉
- 1 small can of peeled water chestnut, diced 马蹄/马荠/荸荠/荸薺
- 2 big sheets of tofu wrap 鮮腐皮/豆腐皮/腐竹膜
- Cooking oil, for brushing
- Water, for wrapping
- Frying oil
- Teochew sweet plum sauce ‘Jinjiyou’ 金桔油 for dipping
Serving: 32 heyzors
- Pick a few of your fresh tiger prawns, cut into 1cm chunks. Mince the rest into a prawn paste.
- Mix in a big mixing bowl the prawn paste, prawn chunks, minced pork, 2 eggs, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, five spice powder, fish powder, coriander, garlic.
- Stir in 5 tablespoons of corn starch. Stir in your diced water chestnut.
- Mix with your hand, always stir in the same direction – clockwise or anti-clockwise, in order to get a gluey, firm consistency.
- Unfold your tofu wraps and gentle wipe it with a clean wet cloth to get rid of the surface salt.
- Cut your wraps along the folds into equal-sized sheets about 20cm by 20cm.
- Take a sheet of tofu wrap, wet the whole sheet until it turns soft.
- Place 3 tablespoons of your meat mixture onto the middle of each wrap, fold the sides, then roll it into a meatroll.
- Set the complete prawn roll on a greased steaming tray and immediately brush oil all over it to prevent one roll from sticking to another.
- Once all the prawn rolls are completed, steam for 15 minutes in a steamer.
- Once steamed, leave on a drying rack to air-dry for about an hour, then turn to the underside and air-dry for another hour. If needed, do it overnight.
- Once completely dry, cut each prawn roll into four equal pieces.
- Heat up your frying oil in a pot or deepfryer on high heat at 190 degrees Celsius. Place your heyzor with the folds of the tofu wrap facing down so this flash frying tightens the wrap.
- Leave to drip dry.
- Now fry your heyzor at medium heat of 150 degrees Celsius such that each heyzor turns golden brown.
- Leave to drip dry.
- Serve hot with Teochew sweet plum sauce called ‘Jinjiyou’ 金桔油 for dipping. Enjoy!
- Cut your tofu wrap along the folds so you won’t have to deal with cracks and tears. Before wrapping your heyzor, first soften your tofu wrap with water, especially on the tiny cracks, so that the cracks won’t get bigger.
- The first frying is to secure the shape of the tofu wraps so they do not open up.
- The second frying is to make the whole thing crispy.
- You can replace the Teochew sweet plum sauce ‘Jinjiyou’ 金桔油 with sweet soy sauce if you cannot find any.
This is an adaptation of the recipe from Spice N’ Pans on their Youtube channel, where I have omitted using corn starch to coat the heyzor before frying. I tried it and the result tasted like flour. I have also changed the quantity since I don’t want to make that many heyzor however delicious they are. I have also modified the recipe a bit with input from my mum, who reminded me that the prawn rolls need to be first air-dried before frying to avoid too much liquid while in the hot oil and they hold better together when cut.
Before you go, do check out my other Minnan recipes!