Chef Feature: Steve Wan + Piloncillo Prawns

Chef Steve Wan

Chef Steve Wan, Executive Chef at Raya (Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel)

Chef Steve Wan, Executive Chef at Raya (Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel)

Executive Chef, Raya at the The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Follow Chef Steve on Instagram at @ekuraone

RSH: How long have you been with Richard Sandoval Hospitality?
SW: About 5 years.

RSH: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
SW: As a junior in high school, after attending a summer culinary workshop at the Art Institute. It is where I was introduced to basic culinary skills and recipes.

RSH: How do you get your inspiration?
SW: I was inspired by my father who was a talented home cook. Our family had many parties and celebrations where I saw how food brought people together.

RSH: Funniest kitchen incident?
SW: A little kitchen humor…. we set out a “Crème Brulee” filled with mayonnaise instead of creme anglaise and watched the wait staff when they tried it.  

RSH: Best cooking tip for a beginner chef just getting into the business?
SW: A formal culinary education is great, but industry experience is everything. Listen, follow directions, and learn from your mistakes as well as the mistakes from others. Expect nothing but, hard work and little pay. And kiss your holidays and weekends goodbye. You truly have to have a passion to cook.  

RSH: Who in the food world do you most admire?
SW: Thomas Keller, for making simple things perfect

RSH: Astrological Sign?
SW: Aries

RSH: Hometown?
SW: Los Angeles, CA

Raya at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel (Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel)

Raya at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel (Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel)

RSH: Guilty Pleasure?
SW: Macaroni and cheese

RSH: Drink of Choice?
SW: A good IPA

RSH: One-word description of yourself?
SW: Creative

RSH: Favorite 90’s jam?
SW: Boys in the hood- EZE

RSH: Top of your bucket list?
SW: Thailand

RSH: Last Meal?
SW: Would defiantly be sushi

RSH: Favorite Sports team to cheer for?
SW: Los Angeles Dodgers

RSH: One thing you would take on a deserted island with you?
SW: 1st choice would be my fiancé, but then it wouldn’t be deserted. So I would say a fishing pole.

RSH: A movie you can watch over and over?
SW: Step Brothers

RSH: What recipe are you sharing with us today? Why do you love this recipe?
SW: Piloncillo Prawns. This is a great dish that can be served as an appetizer or entrée. It’s my Latin version of Chinese honey walnut shrimp. It has a great flavor profile of sweet and spicy. Combined with a creamy glaze and the crunchy yet succulent texture of the prawns, it excites the palate.


Piloncillo Prawns. Photo Credit: Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Piloncillo Prawns. Photo Credit: Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Yield: Serves 4

  • 24 Jumbo prawns (cleaned & butterflied)
  • 2 Piloncillo sugar cones*
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 limes (zested and juiced)
  • 4 morita chiles (toasted and seeded)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Corn starch (as needed)


Break up the Piloncillo into smaller pieces, and combine with water. Bring to a boil to melt piloncillo. Once melted, reduce by a third and add chilies. Pull off heat and let cool to room temperature. If too hot the sauce will break when blending. Combine the rest of ingredients except the starch in blender and blend until smooth. Sauce should be of a thick glaze consistency.

Make a thick batter with the corn starch and cold water. It should be thick enough to coat prawns (Note: the batter will run slightly from shrimp so it is important to fry immediately)

Fry in a 350 degree fryer until the batter is crisp.  

Toss the prawns in a bowl with the glaze, and finish with chopped cilantro and a fresh squeeze of lime juice. Garnish with candied pepitas.

NOTE: You can sub two cups of brown sugar into the recipe if you cannot find Piloncillo. Piloncillo can be found in the global section of your grocery store or at specialty/Mexican grocers. They are packed in conical shaped bricks. The sugar is only called piloncillo in Mexico. This same sugar is called Panela most everywhere else in Latin America.