Embeya, a high-end Vietnamese restaurant from up-and-coming chef Thai Dang, offers the prawn dish most worthy of a full meal. Crispy noodles are served with sweet peppers, basil, and prawns in a broth so perfect it had me scrambling to find spoon. The umami bath these prawns are swimming in makes them burst with flavor. Enjoy with a simple, dry, Asahi beer and your day will be made.
Head-on prawns can be found outside of the food mecca that is the West Loop, too. The Bristol, located in Bucktown and one of the city’s most consistently perfect restaurants, serves their prawns split down the middle – a perfect preparation to ensure they become sufficiently drowned in a pool of rich, anchovy butter.
Fat Rice in Logan Square is my favorite restaurant to open in the last year and prawns play a supporting role in their eponymous dish. Meant to be shared, the fat rice is a deceptively large stone bowl filled with sofrito-scented rice that crisps up along the sides of the bowl into a chewy, delicious treat. Piled high atop this rice is an all-star roster of chicken, roast pork, linguiça, salted duck, tea egg, littleneck clam, and, yes, a few head-on prawns to stare you down as you drool. Bring a few friends along to share this delicacy and amaze them with your new party trick when you pluck the prawn from the bowl and bite down on the head. They may initially be shocked, but use it as an opportunity to take them to school with your newfound knowledge of this delicacy. Or… maybe don’t – it just means more heads for you.