Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sambal Prawns

I love spicy dishes, and I was really eager to try out this sambal dish. It's from one of Singapore’s leading authorities on food - Violet Oon, and I knew it would be scrummy.

Now, this was actually a Sambal Sotong (squid) dish. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any sotong at the market that morning, so I used fresh prawns instead. They work great too! Coincidentally, we had cool, rainy weather that day and that just made this dish even more delicious to dig into. I slurped up every drop of the yummy gravy. It was so, so good. :)

I know some people prefer to shell the prawns and only keep the tails on, probably for easy and dainty eating. But for home cooking, I like to keep the shells on (although I remove the heads) because it keeps the prawns from over-cooking, somewhat. Besides, peeling the shells and sucking them dry of the sambal gravy makes eating this dish all the more hearty! Now, THAT'S finger lickin' good. ;)

(from inSing)
The marriage of spices like chillies and lemon grass with the creamy flavour of coconut milk is what makes Malay food so attractive to the palate. Well, here's how you do it, with prawns.

Serves 2-4

- 500g prawns, with shells on (I used 300g)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 300g grated coconut, squeezed for thick cream (about 1/4 to 2/3 cup), or use coconut milk from packets or cans (I used about 1/2 cup coconut cream from a packet)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon assam pulp (tamarind)
- 1/4 cup water

Spice mixture*:
- 5 buah keras, aka candlenuts (if you don't have candlenuts, use macademias)
- 10 fresh red chillies
- 1 stalk serai (lemon grass), use only the bottom 2 cm at the root end
- 1/2 teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste)
- 10 shallots, peeled
* Note: If, like me, you have ready made rempah in the freezer, just use 2 to 3 tbsps and you'll get your piping hot dish in even lesser time.

1. Pound or grind all the spice ingredients except for the shallots. When the paste is semi fine, add the shallots and grind to make a fine paste. You add shallots last as they are the softest ingredient and if mixed with the hard ingredients, will prevent the harder ingredients from being ground to a fine paste.

2. Clean and devein prawns.

3. Mix assam pulp with water, knead and strain through a sieve to remove seeds. Retain assam water.

4. Heat a wok or saucepan, add the oil and when it is hot, add the spice mixture and stir fry for 3-4 minutes till fragrant and the oil has exuded.

5. Add prawns, salt and sugar; stir fry till the colour changes.

6. Add coconut milk and tamarind water, mix well continue to stir fry for 1-2 minutes till the sauce thickens.

7. Serve with steaming hot rice as part of a meal. So sedap!


  1. I'm a big fan of spicy dishes. Your sambal prawns are so good and tasty with steamed rice. Love it very much.

  2. SPICY food...count me in! Can't get enough of them. These jumbo prawns look sooooo good!

  3. Well, it's alright. No sotong will work just as good too. I don't shell shrimps for cooking because I'm just being plain lazy. But then, gotta agree that more gravy (and thus flavor) will be absorbed when the shrimps are left intact. We should be gentle and kind to these creatures before eating them up! LOL!

  4. I love this dish! Must make it soon.... great reminder!

  5. Lovely and spicy, goes well with nasi lemak and plain sliced cucumber!

  6. I've not heard about Violet Oon for a looong time - though I used to hire her catering company for events when I was working at MND.

    I agree with you on keeping the shells on. Often I'll keep the heads too. Love sucking them as I eat...And they do impart more flavour to the gravy at the same time.

    I feel so hungry looking at your dish...

  7. I feel really hungry now. Thanks for sharing

  8. Hi ladies! Thanks for dropping by.

    busygran: Great idea!

    Beau Lotus: Really? I hope my dish didn't make you too homesick. ;) I used the prawn heads to make a stock and I fried some spinach with it, to go along with this dish.

  9. Ju, my children do not take spicy food thus i rarely cook but i LOVE hot spicy dishes. I only get to eat when we dine out since i'm the only one eating.
    Everytime when i look at your home-cook spicy dishes, i got to curb the craving till the next eating out lol! However, nothing beats home-cook ones! More so, yours look so sedap!!!

    *drooling* Oh mine... The gravy and prawns are making me hungry now.

  10. The shell of the prawns have this special fragrance when fried or grilled. But my hubby hates prawns with shells.

  11. Ju, this looks so good and I have everything save the lemongrass (yes, even candlenuts!). I just love this combination... shells and all!!

  12. OMG this looks soooo wonderful...can I come over for a bowl! Would that I could!

  13. Your prawns are so big! The dish looks fantastic as do your photos.

  14. Oh boy I love Sambal Udang! My all time favourite.

  15. I usually love to keep the shell on if I could cos I think it adds more flavour to the dish :)

  16. Ju, the sambal prawns look damn good. I usually leave the heads on as I really like sucking out the juice from the heads ... does this sound somewhat yucky!

  17. The gravy looks so good! I want some with rice now pls!!!

  18. Where's the petai Ju??? I reckon you could throw in more dried red chillies for the extra kick and colour but your kids can't take spicy food can they?

  19. Ok, I just ate lunch but these photos have made me want to eat again!! I totally agree about leaving the shells on - it keeps the prawns all nice and juicy. Love the spice here, mmm.

  20. Lovely prawn sambal. I am like you. I cook it with the shell and head on. Love to lick the sauce before tucking into the flesh.

  21. I grew up with Violet Oon's recipes and they are fantastic! I must get some photography tips when I am in Singapore next!

  22. top favourite! The colour is so rich and beautiful. I would lick the bowl clean :D

  23. Wow, I can almost taste and smell it! to suck the shells too. : P

  24. Oh my! Cold weather + warm rice + sambal prawns = perfect indulgence!

  25. I like sambal prawns too, looks delicious!

  26. You had me with the first glorious and scrumptious pic and then I read the recipe. Oh my!! I have to make this!!


  27. Shells-on please! :) ...and do I have one bowl of that sambal prawns with the rice? Too good that I can't share. :p

  28. Your photos are so alive and sharp it makes it very hard not to reach into the screen and try to gobble this up (no matter how futile the attempt. Looks yummy!

  29. Just looking to the picture i am droling, i wish i had this right now with some plain rice i am si bookmaking this one.