These freshwater prawns are considered a delicacy and after being scooped up from the lake, they are dunked into a sauce mixed with chillies and other condiments, and served up live and jumping in a lidded bowl.
We readied ourselves around the bowl, chopsticks in hand, and someone reached for the lid of the bowl. As we started to pull it off, the prawns started to jump around even more violently, resulting in some rather undignified screams all around the table. We decided to wait awhile for the jumping to die down before we tried again.
Finally it was calm enough to remove the lid, but even as you reach your chopsticks in to pick them up, those damn prawns continue to jump and twitch their spindly legs. As the only boy among a group of girls, my friend J had to assert his manliness by being the first to stick a prawn in his mouth, and his verdict: he was pretty sure it was wriggling down his throat! Eek!
Eventually we all ate some each; I’ll admit to being a wuss and picking out the smallest looking prawn of the lot, but considering I don’t even like raw stuff, it was definitely an achievement, though I’m not sure I would try it again! I’ll just stick to the more conventional fried version of this dish.
Hua Lien is on the North-East coast of Taiwan and about 3 hours away from Taipei by train. Li Yu Lake is a short bus ride from Hua Lien city centre.