Sambal Udang

Prawn Sambal

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Sambal is the general term for spicy chilli-based pastes that are popular all over South East Asia. It takes time to make sambals, since the process of cooking the chillies is long, but it is well worth the time and trouble. I usually cook a big pot of sambal, pack it into small tubs, label them and place them in the freezer. This way, I do the work once and have a good supply of sambal, especially for those super-busy days when I don’t have the time to cook a proper meal. I just need to defrost the sambal on the stove over low heat. And once the oil separates, I can add the other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 300 g (11 oz) king prawns
  • 250 ml (8 fl oz / 1 cup) water
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, bruised
  • 4 Tbsp tamarind juice
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and sliced

Sambal

  • 8 shallots, peeled
  • 4 fresh red chillies
  • 3 Tbsp dried chilli paste
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz / ½ cup) water

Method

  • Peel and devein the prawns. Reserve the heads and shells. Rinse the prawns and set aside.
  • Place the prawn heads and shells in a pot. Add the water and boil for 10 minutes. This will be the stock for the dish. Strain the stock and discard the heads and shells. Set aside.
  • Place the ingredients for the sambal in a blender and process into a paste.
  • Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the sambal paste and stir-fry until fragrant.
  • Add the prawn stock and bruised lemongrass. Cook until the oil separates. This will take 20–30 minutes. Keep the heat on medium to low.
  • Add the tamarind juice and stir to incorporate. Continue to cook until the sauce is thick like a paste. Add the prawns, then season with salt and sugar. You can now adjust the consistency of the sambal to your preference. For a thinner sambal, add just a little water and mix well.
  • Add the onion and stir for about 2 minutes until the prawns are cooked through. The onions will continue to soften in the residual heat.
  • Dish out and serve hot with rice and other dishes on the side.

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