Cheating prawns from Papua: why cheating is good

Yes, cheating is good, even finger licking good! No, we are not talking about the famous fried chicken, but yes, you are right, it’s about food. Papuans call it Udang Selingkuh or Cheating Prawns. When people first hear about cheating prawns, they generally wonder why the prawns were given such a name? Were they having affairs? With whom? You’ll be happy to know that they are innocent. Udang selingkuh is a unique Papuan delicacy. The freshwater prawns are larger and the size of their claws is almost equivalent to crabs’ claws, resulting in an assumption that a certain prawn had an affair with with a certain crab; and udang selingkuh are their offsprings.

Credits: Cendana News

Jokes aside, udang selingkuh is a type of lobster (Cherax Albertisii), found in the mountainous region of Wamena, Papua. They are widely spread in rivers in the Baliem Valley. Papuans also find them in Lake Paniai, LakeTage, and Lake Tigi. Udang selingkuh is served in various ways, but due to its tastiness, it is not rare that udang selingkuh is cooked only with little salt to none.

The taste of cheating prawns is slightly different from the taste of prawns in general. The texture is more fibrous and tender with a slightly sweet taste, like the taste of lobster meat. Similar to prawns in general, all parts of the body are edible except the head, but we will get a bonus of meat on the large claws.

Udang selingkuh is not only delicious but also nutritious. It is high in calcium and protein. In addition, it contains minerals in the form of selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and zinc. Cheating prawns are also low in calory (106 calories every 100 grams of meat).

Tourists mostly request the dish served in sweet and sour sauce, accompanied by stir-fried vegetables, such as water spinach or papaya flowers. The popularity of cheating prawns resulted in the emergence of a number of restaurants championing the dish, especially in Wamena. Mas Budi Restaurant, Baliem Pilamo Restaurant, Pilamo Cafe, and Blambangan Restaurant are among them.

To be able to enjoy it, you have to depend on the season because udang selingkuh is not specifically cultivated until now. The restaurants mostly rely on the catch of local residents who hunt traditionally on the Baliem River. They charge approximately USD30-8 per plastic bag. The price can indeed soar if the supply of shrimp is limited. Due to the high demand and low supply, tourists must pay about USD20-50 per portion or even more.

To those intrigued to taste udang selingkuh, the price does not matter. They will visit Papua to experience the dish that so far could only be enjoyed freshly there. If you are interested, make sure you avoid rainy season because the prawns will disappear from the market. So, best of luck!

Adapted from National Geographic Indonesia and