Chef Simranjit Gill’s Skull Island Prawns

Darling Harbour restaurant Sailmaker finally reopened late last year, having closed at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. It marked a welcome return for an eatery that leans into its waterside location by serving sustainably caught seafood sourced from around Australia.

“The idea [of the menu] is keeping in mind future generations and taking a step forward to do something new,” says chef de cuisine Simranjit Gill. “We’re thinking outside of the box to create menus so that the future generation doesn’t have to suffer.”

Sailmaker’s new signature Seafarer dinner menu is a multi-course meal of seafood and tapas that matches native Australian ingredients with Japanese and Mediterranean influences. Served Thursday through Sunday, the menu allows diners to choose dishes from a choice of different seafood starters and mains, as well as five different dessert options. An a la carte menu is also available, which offers vegetarian, meat and kid-friendly dishes.

Gill works extensively with local producers such as M&G Seafood and Austral Fisheries to find seasonal and sustainable ingredients such as the Skull Island prawns in this recipe.

“For the Skull Island prawns, the fishing is done between August and November,” Gill says. “The rest of the year they don’t do any fishing, just to make sure the juvenile prawns are given time to reproduce and grow, and that’s a very beautiful concept.”

The catch is also certified carbon neutral and uses nets that allow trapped turtles to easily escape – a couple of big ticks for the Sailmaker team.

Gill’s prawn entree is designed to come together in a flash – perfect for a busy service in the restaurant and ideal if you fancy making it at home. The stars, of course, are the Skull Island prawns, naturally sweet prawns from Australia’s tropical northern waters that can grow up to a massive 26 centimetres long. If you can’t find Skull Island prawns, Gill recommends Yamba prawns (which are equally large) or, in a pinch, scallops will work too.

To prepare, Gill is simply butterflying each prawn, ensuring a cooking time of just a few minutes.

“We split it open, making sure it’s not cut all the way, so it keeps the butterfly shape,” he says. “The meat side, we put it down for a couple of minutes only and flip it over to cook on the skin side for a minute more. Total cooking time is three to four minutes maximum.”

Additional flavours are simple and Japanese-inspired, with just dashi butter, shoyu-infused sesame seeds and samphire to garnish. For the dashi butter, you can make your own dashi – a Japanese soup stock of dried kombu and bonito – or buy a ready-made packet.

“In the market you have to look for hondashi,” Gill says. “We use Pepe Saya butter, which is locally sourced.”

The flavour-packed garnishes then give a restaurant-style lift to the dish. The shoyu-infused sesame seeds – roasted white sesame seeds seasoned with shoyu – can be picked up from a specialty grocer. The samphire, a coastal succulent that resembles asparagus, gives a salty crunch to the dish.

To serve, overlap a couple of prawns on the plate, sprinkle some shoyu sesame seeds and place a few pieces of samphire on top.

Skull Island prawns with dashi butter, shoyu sesame and samphire
Serves 1
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 3-4 minutes

Ingredients:
2 Skull Island prawns
5g dashi
10g unsalted butter
Shoyu sesame seeds
Samphire

Method:
Split prawns down the middle from underneath, top to bottom, with a sharp knife. Do not cut all the way through – butterfly them and keep the shells, head and tail attached to the prawn meat. Press the prawns flat and devein them.

Combine dashi with soft butter and mix well.

To pan-fry prawns, heat a large non-stick frying pan and add dashi butter and a pinch of sea salt. Fry prawns flesh side down on medium heat for roughly 2 minutes or until they start to change colour on the edge. Turn the prawns shell side down and cook for a further 1 minute.

Remove the prawns from pan, place on a serving plate and garnish with shoyu sesame and samphire.

This article is produced in partnership with Hyatt Regency Sydney.

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