Big meaty prawns are a luxury in many other countries, but in Thailand they are everywhere. Fresh ones are usually available in every Thai restaurant for those who prefer them to chicken, beef, or pork in the standard curries, stir-fried dishes, and soups. In dried form they are as necessary in every kitchen as chilies or salty fish sauce.

Of all Thailand's shrimp and prawn dishes, probably the best-known outside the country is tom yam kung, one of the world's great soups, made from fresh prawns, straw mushrooms, lemon grass, chilies, fresh lime, fish sauce, and aromatic herbs. Properly made, it is sour and hot enough to set the unwary gasping.

Shrimp stir-fried over high heat with fresh green peppercorns, chili, curry spices, cloves of garlic, coconut cream, and herbs including fresh coriander are delectable and less aggressive than they sound. But those who prefer their seafood less eclipsed by high-voltage sauces can get grilled giant river shrimp, which go onto the fire and subsequently to your table in their natural state. They are served with a small bowl of fiery dipping sauce that is very heavy on the fresh garlic, lime, and chili. Prices will seem amazingly low for those accustomed to buying prawn dishes in Europe or the USA.

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