that turned out not to be prawns at all, but Surimi, in a waterside restaurant on one of the islands in Hong Kong harbour. The owner told me that real prawns were off the menu because at the time the South China sea was awash with red algae, and it wasn't a good idea to eat prawns.
Two nights later I was entertained to dinner in another waterside restaurant, and this time the host recommended the prawns. "Ah" I said "They'll be Surimi prawns". "No" said the waitress "They're the real thing, we can't serve Surimi because the fish it's made from are all contaminated by red algae".
That's what I love about China.
Crab sticks are always in our freezer, and so far we've suffered no ill effects.