Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Sambal Udang - Sambal Prawns

This is one of my all-time favourite dishes because I love seafood, especially prawns, and spicy foods. This dish is so tasty not just because I am a chilli addict but also because of the naturally slightly sweet flavour from the unshelled prawns and onions, as well as the tanginess from the assam.

Assam (or Tamarind) is the pulp that is obtained from the pods of the tamarind tree. Assam or Tamarind is a sticky fibrous mass which may sometimes include the seeds. In Singapore, when it is in the form of "Tamarind Pulp" it is known as Assam Jawa and if it is in the form of "Tamarind Pieces" it is known as Assam Keping.

How to use Assam pulp:
To obtain the Assam or Tamarind juice, this pulp is stirred through a little hot water, squeezed and then strained through a muslin cloth/sieve.

How to use Assam or Tamarind pieces:
These are often used in place of the pulp. One or two pieces are added to the dish and then removed when the food has attained the required sourness.

(Tamarid information from

Sambal Udang/Prawns

1kg large prawns, unshelled
1 tbspn tumeric powder
1 tspn chilli powder
chilli paste
2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped into 6 wedges
tamarid juice
vegetable oil

Chilli Paste
4 clove garlic
15 shallots
30 dried chillies (yes, that is not a typo)
1 tbspn of belacan (prawn paste)

Tamarid Juice
About 1 rounded teaspoon of tamarid pulp
2 tbspn of hot water


Prepare chilli paste - Roughly cut dried chillies with a kitchen scissors and pour enough hot water to cover the chillies. Leave for 10 mins and drain. Blend finely the chillies, 1 cup of fresh water, and all other ingredients. My mom used to use a motar and pestle but these days she uses a blender.

Prepare prawns - Marinade prawns in tumeric and chilli powder and salt. Leave aside for 15 minutes.

Prepare tamarind juice - Soak pulp in hot water, squeeze out the juice. My mom does not strain the juice.

Now you are ready to cook the dish:
1. In a hot wok, stir fry prawns in a little oil till pink. Be careful not to overcook the prawns. Remove from the wok and set aside.
2. In the same work, add more oil and over medium heat, stir fry the onion wedges till fragrant. Add the chilli paste and stir fry it till fragrant (about 20 minutes). Add tamarid juice and cooked prawns. Add salt to taste and a pinch of sugar. Cook for further 5 minutes.
3. Serve with steamed jasmin rice or coconut rice (nasi lemak) and stir fried vegetables (e.g. water spinach).

Mom sometimes add wedges of tomatoes and fresh coriander together with the prawns.



Veron said...

Oh wow, these look delectable. We use tamarind in the Philippines for soup. I can just imagine the great tangy flavor it imparts to this dish.

Lydia said...

This is one of the dishes I became addicted to when we traveled in Malaysia. I love the tang from the tamarind!

Big Boys Oven said...

such a striking dish! so lovely!

winedeb said...

That photo is "picture perfect"! We would love that dish in our house as my guys are chili pepper "crazy"! I grow quite a few of them and none go to waste. Nice presentation Nora!

Bellini Valli said...

Looks like you have no shortage of delicious foods at home with your family!!I trust you are having a fabulous time!!!!!!

Wendy said...

Wonderful! I just received a massive bag of prawns from a friend and was wondering what to do with them all. Will try this very soon!

Gigi said...

I love tamarind water, but have never used it in a savory dish.This dish sounds absolutely delicious!

Gloria said...

Nora, this looks sooo yummy!!! I like this type of recipe. I'm in the beach now for some days, I enjoy swimn in the sea!!!
Hubby bring the Notebook, so I put recipe and I can comments!!!
Nora Have a wonderful year!!!

Coffee & Vanilla said...

Nora this is great recipe!!!
I have almost all ingredients at home, except prawns... I think I will give it a try. I have even tamarind pulp as it is used widely in the Caribbean also... Michael bough it a while ago for me to try :)

I did run this morning the whole distance I used to run before my break... and I'm ok :) I walked also in the evening for over 2 hours... I had to go to the shopping center to buy some things for Marissa... and instead of taking a bus to and from... I walked... I'm tired now, legs hurting me but I feel great :)

Looking forward more recipes from your mom :)


Em said...

I only have one word :-)

Oh, and tell your mum I love her table cloths :)

You must have inherited your good taste from her...

Kevin said...

Great photo! These sounds really tasty! I really like spicy prawn dishes. I am a bit surprised that I have all of the ingredients (other than the prawns which I would pick up fresh). My kitchen is much better stocked than it used to be.

tigerfish said...

More rice, more rice, more rice.
Sorry for the ritual. You just tempted me and made me drool :)~~

Nora B. said...

Veron - Thanks. There are times when I long for the tangy flavour of tamarind and nothing else seems to do it for me. I think I'll have to stock my pantry up with such ingredients when I return to Sydney.

Lydia, it is certainly addictive. I've been known to finish almost 500g of prawns!

Sunny - Thanks!

Deb - Thanks. I knew that your guys would appreciate it. I still remember that lovely photo of chillies that you had up on your blog. I think it was the first post I ever read and you got me hooked.

Valli - Yes, I have been have a great time. And probably eating too much...

Wendy - How lucky! Prawns are something I never get tired of eating.

Gigi - Thanks. Now that you reminded me, it's been a long while since I've had tamarid water.

Gloria - Your time by the beach sounds wonderful! The weather hasn't been so great in Singapore, so I haven't been to the beach much except to go for a run.

Margot - I wonder how much spice you and Micheal can handle? Wow, you did really well with the run, and all that walking too. I remember walking a lot when I was visiting my sis in the UK. Glad that you are back in your routine.

Em, thanks. It was very miam. I hope that she will make that again. I can eat that everyday. I will tell her about your compliment. I will also tell you more about the "table cloth" at the end of my trip.

Kevin, thanks. You pantry is better stocked then mine in Sydney. I need to do a pantry make-over when I get back. It's good that I have this blog, or else I wouldn't have paid much attention to Mom's recipes.

Tigerfish, I hope that I am not making you miss all the makan....

WokandSpoon said...

I love sambal anything so this looks yum!

Susan said...

30 red chilies - count 'em! My kind of cooking, Nora. I tolerate (enjoy!) a high heat quotient. : )

katiez said...

Definitely the week for red prawns...yum!

Shayne said...

this looks so good but the last time I had shrimp paste I turned red and my eyes swelled so I am sure I should not risk it any more. it is so sad every year I lose a little more seafood that I can eat last year was soft shell crab, I have not had any crab since and I love it. What is odd is I can eat shrimp without an issue as long as they are cleaned.

ok sorry for going on an on. The dish looks GREAT!

Anonymous said...

This is exaclty what I want I want to cook today!! (Not sure about using belachan though - every time I buy it, I toss it out the next day as the pantry starts to stink! Ha! Ha!)