These Giant River Prawns in Ayutthaya, Will Make Your Jaw Drop!

By Mark Wiens 29 Comments
Thailand prawns
Giant river prawns in Ayutthaya

Few things in the world are as beautiful as prawns the size of your forearm.

Ayutthaya, the ancient capital city of Thailand, is one of the most famous places in the country for devouring jumbo sized freshwater river prawns… and they are unbelievably good.

I’ve been to Ayutthaya a number of times to walk around the historical temples, but on previous visits to Ayutthaya I had never had time to search out freshwater  prawns – until now.

And I’m glad I did… it was a mind-blowing delicious meal.

restaurant scenery
Scenery from the restaurant

Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Ayutthaya province in Thailand is known for its freshwater rivers and canals, and eating fresh fish and prawns are a traditional part of the diet in the region.

fresh river prawns
Fresh river prawns

In Thailand, giant freshwater river prawns are considered a very prestigious food – something nearly all Thais would love to eat.

The species found in Thailand is usually macrobrachium rosenbergii (I think so at least), which are also better known just as giant freshwater prawns. They are farmed frequently in central Thailand, but it’s also still common to go fishing for them right in the waters around Ayutthaya.

ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา
Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)

Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)

We decided to eat at Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา), one of the many restaurants in Ayutthaya that specializes in serving freshwater prawns.

You enter the restaurant from the back side, and there are two big dining rooms, the first is on dry land with a view over the river.

ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา
Floating dining room at Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา) in Ayutthaya

The other dining room is the floating section, hovering in the slow moving chocolate colored water, stabilized by empty floating blue barrels and car tires.

There’s about a 20 meter bridge connecting the kitchen and main dining room with the floating section of the restaurant.

We chose to eat on the floating section, which was actually quite stable, and offered a great view of the river… and a closer connection to the prawns I was about to eat!

Grilling shrimp
On the grill

Ordering the prawns

Sure you can order other dishes on the menu, but the real reason you want to go to Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา), is to eat freshwater river prawns.

You have a few different choices when it comes to ordering:

  • 5 shrimp per kg. – 1,200 THB
  • 4 shrimp per kg. – 1,300 THB
  • 3 shrimp per kg. – 1,500 THB

Basically you order by the kg. (and you get the same weight for any choice you choose), but they are just different sizes of prawns.

3 prawns equalling one kilo was the largest size, and I think they were more expensive mainly because they were meatier with less shell weight and had more shrimp head butter – more about this later.

Since I was in Ayutthaya, I had no choice but to go BIG.

roasting prawns
Roasting the prawns, only shell side down

The cooking was simple.

They took the jumbo freshwater prawns, sliced them in half, and laid them onto a hot grill, shell down, with no seasoning.

After just a few minutes of being heated over the charcoal, I could see the slimy meat starting to whiten up and get firmer, while the orange head oil started to melt like butter.

They were grilled for about 10 minutes or so, until the master griller said they were done.

Ok, now before I talk more about eating the prawns and how incredibly delicious they were, I’ll quickly go over the other dishes we ordered first.

Stir fried lotus stems (ผัดสายบัว)
Stir fried lotus stems (ผัดสายบัว)

Stir fried lotus stems (ผัดสายบัว)

Since Ayutthaya is surrounded by rivers, lotus plants are extremely common.

Every part of the lotus plant is used, and the stems are quite popular to eat in central Thailand, and make a great vegetable.

This plate of lotus stems, pad sai bua (ผัดสายบัว), was stir fried with a few slices of carrots, garlic, and soy sauce. It was very tasty, and what I really love about eating lotus stems is they are chewy, an almost sticky texture, somewhat like okra.

Price – 80 THB

Thai fried rice
Fried rice with chicken (ข้าวผัดไข่)

Fried rice with chicken (ข้าวผัดไข่)

My wife and I also ordered a plate of khao pad gai, fried rice with chicken (ข้าวผัดไข่). It was average, nothing too special, but not bad.

Good thing we ordered the fried rice with chicken this time, not the version with shrimp, that might have been shrimp overdose!

Price – 40 THB

deep fried fish
Deep fried fish (ปลากระพงทอดน้ำปลา)

Fried fish (ปลากระพงทอดน้ำปลา)

I’m not sure why we actually ordered a pla kapong tod nam pla (ปลากระพงทอดน้ำปลา), a fried barramundi fish in the first place, because we definitely didn’t really need it (due to all the shrimp we had), but nevertheless we did order it.

It wasn’t the best I’ve had. The fish was a bit on the dry side, a little over fried, and the accompanying sauce was a little too sweet for me.

So if you eat at Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา) when you’re in Ayutthaya, I’d say avoid the fried fish, and just stick with the freshwater prawns.

Price – 200 THB

Thai dishes
Prawn claws with fingerroot (ก้ามกุ้งผัดฉ่า)

Prawn claws with fingerroot (ก้ามกุ้งผัดฉ่า)

You know those lanky claws that river prawns have?

When they grilled them, they cut them off, and grilled them separately.

After de-shelling the meat from the claws, they fried them up in a Thai dish known as pad cha (ผัดฉ่า), which includes slices of fingerroot, green pepper corns, and basil.

Delicious Thai food
This was a delicious dish

Since we bought the plate of jumbo freshwater prawns, they gave us this dish for free.

It was very good.

The pieces of claw meat tasted like crab, and then spiced up with the gingery flavor of the fingerroot, spice from chilies and the green peppercorns and basil, it was wonderful.

roasted river prawns
Roasted giant river prawns (กุ้งเผา) – The trophy plate!

Roasted giant river prawns (กุ้งเผา)

Finally, we made it to the main event!

Like I already mentioned above, I had to go big, so I ordered 1 kg. of the BIGGEST sized Ayutthaya freshwater prawns, which was 3 full enormous guys.

Price – 1,500 THB

freshwater river prawns in Ayutthaya
A prawn the size of your forearm!

I could hardly contain my joy as the freshwater prawns were delivered to our table. It was one of the most amazing sights of food I had ever seen in my life.

At 333 grams per prawns, they were giants.

3 of the biggest prawns I had ever seen in my life, roasted beautifully, and lying on the plate in front of me was almost too much to handle, and I had to get started eating.

Best Thai food
Freshwater river prawns in Ayutthaya, Thailand

For my first bite I went straight in for the shrimp head oil (which I think might actually be the liver of the shrimp – but not sure about this, anyone can confirm?).

The yellow orange blob of butter looking thing in the head is what sets freshwater river prawns apart from saltwater tiger shrimp.

The yellow stuff is honestly just like shrimp butter, creamy and rich, and with the most beautiful shrimp flavor I’ve ever tasted, and just slightly bitter. Taking a spoonful of it was life-changing.

It tasted like shrimp flavored melted ice cream.

Prawn oil
The yellow orange oil will melt in your mouth

The meat of the giant freshwater prawn was equally as marvelous as the head oil, and they both complemented each other nicely.

The meat was sweeter and had a softer texture than even that epic lobster I ate in Hua Hin.

It was juicy and succulent, and even though the prawns were served with a chili dipping sauce, for one of the few times, I had zero interest in altering the natural flavor of the prawn – they were that good.

I might say, giant freshwater river prawns, simply roasted and unseasoned, might be among the best tasting single ingredient things to eat in the world. I’d certainly include them in my top food ever eaten list.

Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)
Entrance to Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)

Watch the full video of our meal below!

(Or if you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/SLONtoYNZvA)

Conclusion

Ayutthaya, the ancient captial of Thailand, located about an hour drive from Bangkok, is famous for both historical temples, and for giant freshwater river prawns.

On my latest visit to Ayutthaya, I didn’t go to see the temples, I went for the prawns.

We chose to eat at a restaurant called Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา), and I ordered a few different dishes including an epic 1 kg. plate of roasted prawns.

The other dishes I ordered at Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา) were alright, not the best I’ve had. However, the giant river prawns (กุ้งเผา) were one of the best tasting single ingredients I’ve ever had.

Taking bites of prawn meat combined with the head oil, was unbelievably delicious.

If you visit Ayutthaya, and are looking for a potentially life-changing meal of jumbo freshwater prawns, check out Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา). There are also many other restaurants in Ayutthaya serving roasted freshwater prawns, so I’m sure there are many other delicious restaurant choices as well, just make sure you try some giant river prawns.

Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)

Address: Thanon Samkok-Sayna, Tambon Maitra, Amphoe Bang Sai, Ayutthaya
Phone: 08-6007-1451
Open hours: 10 am – 8 pm daily
Prices: 1,500 THB per kg. or jumbo prawns (not cheap, but well worth a splurge)

ที่อยู่ 74 หมู่2 อาคาร ตรงข้ามศูนย์ศิลปาชีพบางไทร ถนนสามโคก-เสนา ตำบลไม้ตรา อำเภอบางไทร อยุธยา
โทร. 08-6007-1451
เปิดบริการทุกวัน 10.00 – 20.00 น

How to get there:

This restaurant is located a bit outside of Ayutthaya town, and I was in our own vehicle to get here. I’m not sure if you can get here by public transportation, but if you have a private van / taxi, your driver should know how to get there.

For the map, look in the “Central Thailand” section:



29 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Josh

    10 months ago

    ” khao pad gai, fried rice with chicken (ข้าวผัดไข่). ”
    I think you meant to write ข้าวผัดไก่. ข้าวผัดไข่ means egg fried rice.

  • Khanh Ho

    1 year ago

    I’ve had something that looks like this in Vietnam–river prawns that were about the size of a small banana. They cooked them over the same type of grill at your table. But they were cooked whole and charred black on the outside. It was one of the most amazing dishes and I kept getting them. It was usually served at drinking izakaya type places.

    • Mark Wiens

      1 year ago

      Hi Khanh, great to hear from you, thank you for sharing your experience eating similar river prawns. That sounds delicious!

  • Symen van der Kooi

    1 year ago

    Thank you for all the pleasure and enjoyment we have had from the recipes and videos.
    Wishing to be back in Thailand having a few of the giant prawns we had in Chang Mai.
    Have a happy and successfull new year.

    • Mark Wiens

      1 year ago

      Hi Symen, thank you very much, Happy New Year!

  • Daniel

    2 years ago

    Mark, me and my wife are huge fans of you. I dream of those prawns and because of that we’ve already booked our flights to Bangkok end march and also booked a hotel in Ayutthaya. We can’t wait to tasty those prawns!

    Regards

    Daniel & Ana from Brazil

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Daniel and Ana, great to hear from you, thank you very much for your support. Glad you’ll be coming to Thailand soon!

  • Benjamin

    2 years ago

    After the meal from the restaurant outside is it easy to grab a taxi?

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Benjamin, unfortunately it’s kind of in a remote area, not close to a major road, so it’s best to either have the taxi wait for you, or to go with your own car. Hope you can make it here.

      • Benjamin

        2 years ago

        Hey Mark thanks for your advice :) by the way any advise regards to the transportation whether if i can book the taxi for couple of hours will it be expensive?

        • Mark Wiens

          2 years ago

          Hey Benjamin, you’re welcome. Have you used the Grab Taxi app? I think you can book a taxi for 1/2 day or on a longer term basis, and it shouldn’t be too expensive, but not sure exactly how much – maybe around 1000 THB.

          • Benjamin

            2 years ago

            Hey Mark, thanks for your advise :) yes i had use grab taxi before in Singapore but not sure the apps will work in Thailand i will try using the apps when i reach BKK. Can’t wait to enjoy this delicious giant river prawn hope to see you around till than take care…

          • Mark Wiens

            2 years ago

            You’re welcome Benjamin, all the best.

  • Pisonth

    3 years ago

    Mark- The expression on your face when you eat that prawn confirmed that it was heavenly good. When I was younger these prawn are much bigger. About double the size and were plenty in the river much closer (pratomthani province) and not that expensive.
    Mark, next time you in Thailand try Poa Takk. It is Tom Yum with combination of sea food. You have tried Nom Jeen Num Ya. Try Nom Jeen Num Prix. It is ancient central province Thai dish and a bit difficult to find a restaurant that serve.
    I live and work in Alaska. Will be in Thailand this December and will have some of that prawn, and will think about you (wish you were here)
    Enjoy your show. and that was a good job

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Pisonth, thank you very much for reading and for sharing. I can only imagine prawns twice that size – that would be almost too incredible. Yes, I’ve had poa takk a few times, I really love it. And my wife’s mom also makes kanom jeen nam prik, very good too! How long have you been living in Alaska? Are you originally from Ayutthaya?

  • senabodi

    3 years ago

    Wow, you really know your stuff! I was certain you’d review some other (read: inferior) place, and was absolutely gobsmacked your picking our favourite prawn restaurant.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Ok, great to hear this is your favorite place!

  • Pum Puy

    3 years ago

    Great blog post and vid! My aunt is Thai and I have many Thai friends so I visit Thailand often. I love this blog post because my friend promised to take me to Ayutthaya to see the ancient temples and eat the giant prawns next time I visit BKK. One question, the prawns seem a bit expensive. 1500 Baht for three large prawn seems very high???

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Pum, thank you for reading and watching, and glad that you’re going to visit Ayutthaya next time you’re in Thailand. Yes, it’s definitely expensive, more for a special occasion, but very worth it.

  • Jules

    3 years ago

    Wow looks great

  • Suvro

    3 years ago

    These river prawns are called “golda chingri” in West Bengal. These are some of the most expensive fresh water food one gets in Kolkata. Here is a picture from one of the markets in Kolkata – http://tinyurl.com/pqycs6o

    Interestingly river prawns are blue rather than red because they do not feed on krill, which is the source of astaxanthin, the primary red color component of their shells. The tomalley is indeed the liver.

    In Bengali cuisine, the traditional way to eat the tail is a coconut milk based curry, or steamed in a mustard sauce.

  • Ashley | Ashley Wanders

    3 years ago

    Those prawns are massive! I don’t think I’ve ever had freshwater prawns- only saltwater- but you’ve convinced me that I need to try them!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Ashley, yes definitely if you love prawns you have got to try these freshwater types, the meat is so soft and sweet, and that yellow head butter is incredible – I know you’ll love them.

      • Mark Wiens

        3 years ago

        Hi Dara, thanks for reading, yes I agree with you, tom yum made with these prawns in unbelievably good as well – I had some another day but haven’t written about it yet. Do you have a favorite restaurant for prawn tom yum?

      • Mark Wiens

        3 years ago

        Hey Dara, after this restaurant, I had some prawn tom yum with these prawns, and it was amazing. I agree with you, that prawn oil in soup, is almost unbelievable.

    • EDUARDO MAJEWSKY

      3 years ago

      here in Brazil , specially at northeast region, is very common to find and eat fresh water prawns
      here these prawns are called “PITU” and they are caught on the rivers
      they are so big you need a ham to break them before eating

      cheers !

      • Mark Wiens

        3 years ago

        Very cool to hear that Eduardo, I would love to try some river prawns in Brazil too, that sounds wonderful.