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Prawn Peel Theory: A Testament to an Asian Father’s Love

Love, they say, is in the little things.

Love, they say, is in the little things. As a typical Asian parent, my father embodied the traditional facets of what it meant to be a man: always portraying a strong exterior and lacking any form of physical affection like a hug or even a pat on the back ever since I was a child. However, one thing he always did was peel prawns for my mother, sister and me.    

Admittedly, I hated it as a child. When we went to restaurants or even cafes, I would sit at the dining table with flushed cheeks watching my father with his plate pilled full of prawn shells and his hands covered in sauce and prawn juices. He always took it upon himself to peel the prawns even after laments of “I know how to peel my own prawns”   

I saw it as a sign of not only lacking table manners, but also a father coddling his daughter and I did not want to be babied. My mother would laugh and explain to the table that “he just likes to peel prawns”.  

When we dined out with other families, everyone peeled their own prawns, usually with their utensils instead of their hands. My plate was filled with already peeled prawns in a neat pile.  

As a pescatarian, prawns are one of my favourite seafoods, but I would never order them when we dine out.  


Orange Peel Theory & Prawn Peel Theory

The origins of the orange peel theory is largely unknown, but it has recently been floating around in online discourse after a TikTok slideshow account “things.i.cant.sen” featured a textual exchange centred around the act of peeling oranges between what is believed to be former partners.  


This act of peeling oranges serves as the true litmus test for your loved one’s care for you based on how they react. If they show any sign of reluctance, the consensus is that they have failed; if they are not inclined to help you with simple jobs, they would be more unlikely to help you with major ones down the road, and vice versa.

Many TikTok users have since hopped on this wholesome trend, sharing the different kinds of acts of service that their loved ones have done to brighten their day. Some have even taken to testing this theory out on their loved ones and relationships, producing various results. However, I would like to make a caveat: in no way is this a credible confession of love. There are many different forms of affection and love languages that appeal to different people.  

In a similar vein, peeling little crustaceans is seen by Singaporeans as the equivalent to peeling oranges.  

In this increasingly materialistic world filled with grand gestures and extravagant displays of affection that are thought to hold more weight, the Orange Peel Theory and Prawn Peel Theory stands out for its simplicity and sincerity. It is not only applicable to romantic relationships, but familial ones as well.  


Shell-ebrate the Little Things in Life

As I grow older, I have started to see the gesture in a whole new light: peeling my prawns was never a trend or a test to him; it was something that came as naturally to my father as breathing.  

To my father, it was his way of showing his love and affection to his family – his willingness to get his hands dirty and peel prawns so that we can enjoy a fuss free dinner. The first prawns that have been peeled goes to us without fail. On a few occasions, he even burned his fingers because the dishes were too hot or pricked his finger with the sharp edges of the shell. Sometimes, I don’t even know if he peeled any for himself. 


A Father’s Love

I wonder if my father knew that the last time he carried me from the car back home because I fell asleep was the final time he would ever do that.  

I wonder if he knew that the last time I ran into his arms when he came back from work was the last time I would shout “You’re home!” Now, I come home when he is asleep.  

I wonder if these are the reasons he still peels my prawns every single time, even though I am perfectly capable of peeling them now.  

I am ashamed of my embarrassment at an act of fatherly love that came so easily to him. Now, I look at him in anticipation, knowing that the prawns which will be on my plate are peeled with love and I will never take that for granted. 

I draw inspiration from his quiet, reliable, and unwavering kind of love that is his way of showing affection; the way which he knows how.  

“Aiya, later then wash hand only.”  

Whenever I’m with my father, I’ll happily let him peel the prawns.  

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