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Gambas a la plancha with wild prawns

Prep time
10 mins
Cooking Time
5 mins


msc ecolabel landscape


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 free-range egg (RSPCA approved)
  • 100ml / 3½ fl oz / generous ⅓ cup sunflower oil
  • 100ml / 3½ fl oz / generous ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice


  • 250g / 9 oz / generous ¾ cup fine sea salt
  • 20 MSC certified raw king prawns (jumbo shrimp), unpeeled with heads and tails left on
  • salt and pepper
When shopping, look for the MSC blue fish tick on your seafood to know it's sustainable.

The MSC blue fish tick


When it comes to prawns (shrimp), no dish is more famous than gambas a la plancha – king prawns (jumbo shrimp), still in their shells, fried in a layer of sea salt in a red hot pan. The salt spreads the heat evenly so the prawn shells become crisp while the meat inside steams in its own juices. Large fresh prawns are by far the tastiest when cooked this way as it’s just the prawns you taste – and nothing else.

To make the aioli

  1. Crush the garlic in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Whisk the egg into the crushed garlic (if the mortar is too small for the egg and oils to be added, first transfer the garlic to a bowl).
  3. Add the sunflower and olive oils drop by drop, whisking constantly.
  4. When both oils have been emulsified into the egg and garlic, season the mixture with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  5. Chill the aioli in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To cook the gambas

  1. Spread the sea salt in an even layer about 5 mm / ¼ inch thick over a large frying pan (skillet) or plancha (flat, cast-iron griddle).
  2. Place the pan over the heat and when it is really hot, arrange the prawns (shrimp) over the salt, pressing them down lightly. 
  3. Cook for 3–5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the prawns, turning them over once with two spatulas and pressing them down again into the salt.
  4. When cooked, remove the prawns from the pan and brush excess salt off them.

Serving instructions

Serve the prawns with the aioli as a dip. Give each diner a small bowl of warm water with a slice of lemon added so they can rinse their fingers as they eat.

Photo credit: David Loftus

Recipes taken from Bart’s Fish Tales by Bart van Olphen, published by Pavilion Books.

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