Main content

Polenta with Prawns, Crayfish, Smoked Eel

Can a young, iconoclastic Korean-American chef show us the future of American food? At New York’s Momofuku, Dave Chang mixes funky Korean food and down-home country cured Kentucky hams with serious wines, loud music and communal tables. Watch as this self-confessed ‘bad-ass’ chef forces east to meet west, and old to meet new - and gets away with it.


  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cups bacon dashi (see other recipe)

  • 2 cups white or yellow instant polenta

  • 2 tbsp usukuchi (light soy sauce)

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • 250g smoky bacon, cut crosswise into 3-4cm long batons

  • 1kg medium prawns, shelled and deveined

  • 2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 4 slow-poached eggs or regular poached eggs

  • 12 small crayfish or yabbies, steamed or roasted

  • 60g smoked eel (peel off skin and take out bones)

  • ½ cup chopped spring onions (greens and whites)


  • 1.

    Bring the water and broth to a simmer in a pot over medium-high heat and add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking neurotically. Continue to whisk for five minutes after the liquid simmers, then turn the heat down to low. This first five-minute cooking period is called “cooking to first starch.” Here’s the deal on that: “first starch,” they say, “refers to the early stage of polenta cookery in which fine corn particles thicken the liquid enough to hold the larger particles in suspension. It is crucial to stir constantly until the first starch takes hold and to reduce the heat immediately after it does so.” So there: it’s “crucial.” Keep stirring.

  • 2.

    Add the soy sauce, a large pinch of salt, and a few turns of black pepper. Keep the heat low and whisk regularly if not constantly; the polenta should be thickening, undulating, and letting occasional gasps of steam bubble up and out. They’re ready when they’re no longer grainy, when they’re thick and unctuous.

  • 3.

    Add the butter, stirring until it has melted and been absorbed into the polenta. Taste again and add additional salt or pepper as needed. Set aside, covered to keep warm, while you get the rest of the dish together (or serve at once if you’re eating them on their own).

  • 4.

    Cook the bacon: Heat a cast-iron pan over medium heat for a minute or so, until very warm. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it shrinks to about half its original size and is crisp and browned, five to six minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels. Drain the bacon fat from the pan (reserve it for another use if you like) and return the pan to the stove.

  • 5.

    Put the prawns in a mixing bowl, pour the grapeseed oil over them, and add a couple of large pinches of salt. Toss them in the oil and salt until they’re coated. Wipe the pan cleanish with a paper towel and turn the heat up to high. Cook the prawns, in batches if they crowd your pan, which is probably the case. As soon as the prawns hit the pan, press down on them, using a bacon press or the back of a spatula, or a smaller pan or whatever works, and sear them for one to two minutes on the first side. Watch as the gray-pink flesh of the raw prawn gradually turns white in the side pressed against the hot metal, and when that white line creeps about 40 percent of the way up the prawn, flip them and press down on the second side. Sear that side only long enough to get a decent but not necessarily superdeep brown on them, about a minute. They should be just slightly shy of cooked when you pull them from the pan— they’ll continue to cook after they come out of the pan (And nobody likes overcooked prawn).

  • 6.

    Make up plates for everybody: start with a big helping of polenta, nestle a poached egg in the middle of the dish, and arrange some of the bacon, prawns, crayfish and smoked eel in separate piles and then some sliced spring onions in another. Serve at once.

» Metric Converter


Sign Out

Click to Rate

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

0 0 0 0 0
Average Rating
0 comments • 0 ratings