Spiced prawn and crab spring rolls

This is my version of spring rolls, using some left-over filo pastry I had made for another dish and ingredients that I adore to eat. The rolls are very easy to make and a large batch can be made up and frozen until you want to cook them.

The filling carries a hefty wallop of flavour from the spices and herbs – but it needs to in order to avoid it all tasting a bit bland.

Different textures are important here: you want some soft and some crunchy moments within! Although I have used prawns and crab meat, this works brilliantly with chicken, minced pork or just a selection of vegetables. I think it does need some sauce inside for moisture, flavour and to bind, so I use some sweet chilli sauce: just enough to hold the filling ingredients together.

There are times when life is just too short!

While I love making pastry, and many of my posts express the genuine joy I have when it comes to pastry, I do find filo pastry something of a challenge to make; not least because I just never seem to have enough hands to stretch it out thinly enough!

To be honest, though, this is the one pastry I rarely make as commercial filo pastry is outstanding and makes these rolls so much easier, quicker and less stressful to make.

Store cupboard ingredients

There might seem to be a lot of ingredients, but most of these are store cupboard and fridge staples, although you can omit whatever you want or add things as the mood takes you.

I used dried lemongrass from Absolute Spice, just finely chopping them and rehydrating for an hour or so in hot water before draining and using.

I have also made these with other dried herbs and spices which work very well – especially if you leave the filling longer to take up the flavours. To get full flavour from dried spices, sauté them in a little oil first, which will also take off some of the harshness of raw dry spices.

Recipe: spiced prawn & crab rolls: makes 16 small ones


  • 4 sheets of filo pastry
  • flour paste made with 1 tablespoon plain flour and a little cold water


  • 150g king prawns, roughly chopped
  • 100g white crab meat
  • a little fresh red chilli, finely chopped (either leave the seeds in or remove them!)
  • grated zest and juice of half a lime
  • about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh coriander
  • about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon re-hydrated lemongrass, very finely chopped (or use fresh lemongrass or lemongrass paste…)
  • about 2 tablespoons toasted* cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lightly toasted* sesame seeds
  • about 1″ piece of peeled fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • a few bamboo shoots, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce to bind it together
  • 5 sheets filo pastry, brushed very lightly with vegetable oil
  • a couple of tablespoons plain flour, mixed to a paste with cold water

To finish

  • oil for deep-frying

* the sesame seeds and cashews can be left untoasted, but you get a much better flavour when they have been toasted

(1) Mix the filling ingredients together and taste to see if it has the level of flavour (spice, sour, sweetness etc) you like, adding more of whichever ingredient you want according to taste. Set aside until needed. Ideally, leave in the fridge for at least a few hours to allow the flavours to develop.

(2) Take a sheet of filo pastry, placing a damp tea towel over the remaining sheets to stop the pastry from drying out. Cut each sheet into 4 lengthways to give rectangular strips of size about 12cm by 25cm.

(3) For smaller rolls, take about 2 teaspoons of the mixture and place towards one end of each strip of pastry, with a little border around it – as in the picture below. With your finger, spread a little of the flour paste at the opposite end: this ensures the rolls do not unfurl while they cook, which would make the filling spill out and the hot oil pour inside!

(4) Fold the left and right edges of the pastry into the centre: this will keep the filling in place without it falling out.

(5) Roll up tightly, pressing the edges to seal. Brush lightly with oil: this will keep them moist.

(6) Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate (or freeze) until needed.

(7) Deep fry at 180C for about 5 minutes until a deep golden colour. Drain well on kitchen paper before serving. Alternatively, bake these at 180C (fan) for about 15-20 minutes: if baking them, you can dip one end into beaten egg and then dip into sesame seeds. If cooking from frozen, they do not need to be defrosted first: just cook for an extra few minutes.


Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

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