Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sambal Udang (Prawns in chilli)

Sambal Udang is a scorching hot dish filled with prawns, large or small. It is best enjoyed with white rice, although it is also at times served as part of nasi lemak, nasi campur* or other dishes. This is one for the masochists out there, so it really should come with a health warning (or at least a milkshake or mango lassi afterwards to cool the palate!).

1 cup of dried chillies, soaked and blended until smooth to form a paste with as little water as possible
1 onion, cut into wedges or thick slices
5-6 garlic cloves
2 cm ginger slice
1½ teaspoon belacan paste or powder. Alternately, you can use the same amount of dried shrimps
1 lemon grass stalk
Juice of half a lime
300g of large or medium prawns, shelled and de-vein
1 tbsp white or palm sugar

Blend half an onion, garlic and ginger with the chillies. Cook the paste that forms in four tablespoons of oil in medium heat. Be careful of the splattering!

Cook the paste for about ten minutes or until it becomes drier and darker in colour. Add the remaining onions to the paste, along with a crushed lemon grass, and belacan. Add a cup of water and allow it to simmer for ten minutes.

Season the sambal with some salt, lime juice and sugar. Add the prawns to the sambal and cook for ten minutes or less. Overcooking will cause the prawns to acquire a rubbery texture, which I would advise to try and avoid. Remove from heat when you’re happy with the consistency of the sambal, adding water if you want it to be a little runny.

*Nasi campur: Some restaurants prepare several different types of curries, vegetable and meat dishes and leave it up to the customers to choose as many (or as little) side dishes as they would like with their basic plate of rice. This is called nasi campur, or literally, mixed rice. The plate of food will be charged according to the number of items added to it.

Sambal udang with boiled eggs

Tip: Selecting the right type of chillies can make a real difference to the spice level you are aiming for. The smaller dried chillies pack more punch than menacing large ones. Even for those who have a high spice tolerance, I would advice getting medium sized chillies so that you can appreciate the great taste of the sambal rather than simply blowing your mouth away.

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