In previous posts, I have dealt with sambals in their primary sense, which is as a spicy, chili-based condiment, especially popular in Indonesia and Malaya. With the addition of other ingredients, however, the term can also refer to a variety of side-dishes that would typically be served, in fairly small amounts, to add a more substantial accompaniment to rice based meals.
My wife was making her celebrated dal once again, and she suggested that I put together something to go along with it. I first thought of a coconut milk based prawn curry but, as her dal is of the fairly soupy variety, I figured that another ‘wet’ dish would be too much. A dry prawn curry seemed like a good idea but then I decided to depart from the purely Indian and do a sambal type preparation using Yeo Brand Minced Prawns with Spices as a flavor base. Since this condiment, as I mentioned in an earlier post, often seems to lose something when eaten hot, I settled on making a side dish that could be served at room temperature along with my wife’s dal, some Indian flatbread, and some sort of pickle or raita. Here’s what I came up with…
- 2/3 lb. medium prawns;
- 1 can Yeo Brand Minced Prawns with Spices;
- ½ cup sliced Onion;
- ¼ cup Red Bell Pepper, diced;
- 1 large Jalapeno, sliced;
- 1 tsp. Sugar;
- ½ tsp. Salt;
- 1 tsp. Hot Chili Paste of choice (optional).
The Minced Prawn with Spices condiment is fairly hot in its own right but I want this preparation to be really fiery. I am actually using some of my homemade Sambal Terasi, which is super hot, in lieu of plain chili paste, but you can use what ever hot condiment you like (or omit this ingredient entirely).
First, mix the Prawns with the salt, sugar, and the hot chili paste (if using). Let this sit for at least 30 minutes or so.
When you are ready to cook, heat a pan over a high flame and add a tablespoon or so of oil. When the oil is just coming to the smoking point, add the prawns and quickly flash-fry until they turn pink. Remove from the pan and set aside.
If necessary, add enough oil to make a full tablespoon in the pan and then add the onion, red pepper and Jalapeno. Stir and toss just until the onion becomes soft and translucent.
Add the Minced Prawn condiment and as soon as it is hot and beginning to bubble, stir in the prawns. Stir for no a minute or so to finish cooking the prawns all the way through and then remove from the heat and allow to cool. You can serve once it has cooled to room temperature or, better still, allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight to meld the flavors. In that event, make sure you allow it to warm to room temperature before serving.
Well, first of all, I did taste the finished dish while it was still piping hot from the pan and, to my surprise, the subtle flavors of the minced prawn condiment weren’t lost in the same way as I remember from previous cooking experiments.
When cooled to room temperature, the dish was still very good. The chili heat was a bit less fiery than I was aiming for but the overall umami richness and the sweet taste of the prawns themselves worked nicely together. Still, tomorrow, after it has chilled overnight and my wife and I are assembling the various dishes for our feast, I may have to rethink whether I will serve this as a cool side-dish, or heat it back up again. A report on the full meal will follow in due course.
By the way, here is a preview picture of my wife’s dal while it is still in the works…