Back when I was 8 or 9 years old, my father took me to an Indian restaurant in London and I remember having a curry of giant prawns in a lovely hot curry sauce. Even now, over 40 years later I can still recall the taste of it quite vividly and have tried many times over the years to duplicate it. As I mentioned in my ‘Foodstuff’s’ post featuring Patak’s Hot Curry Paste, it was only using this very nice Masala that I was ever able to come close to that delicious taste I remember from all those years ago. Patak’s has changed the makeup of their paste a couple of times since I first used it (in fact, I currently have two jars that are clearly made using a different recipes), so I will be interested to see how the newest variety works in this experiment…
- 6 Jumbo Prawns (with the shell still on)
- 1 ½ cups Tomato Sauce
- ½ cup finely chopped Onion
- 1 tbsp. minced Garlic
- 1 tsp. powdered Chili (such as Cayenne)
- 2 tbsp. Patak’s Hot Curry paste
- 1 tbsp. Belacan *(see below)
- 1 Scallion, green section only, sliced into rings
*NOTE: This culinary experiment was the very last I did before moving from my old house and was written before my recent post featuring Dried Shrimp Paste (Belacan/Terasi). If you have none, it can be substituted with Lee Kum Kee Shrimp Sauce, or even the juice from Korean Salted Shrimp. If none of these are available you can omit this part of the recipe, but the sharply pungent fermented shrimp flavor of any of these products adds a great depth to this dish.
First, heat a little oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the minced garlic. When the garlic is just getting soft, add the prawns and sauté just until the shells turn pink and then remove them from the heat. When the shrimp are cool enough, take them out of the pan, remove the shells and set the shrimp aside for now. You can use shelled shrimp if you like but the shells will add extra flavor to the shrimp meat and the cooking oil.
Return the pan with the oil and garlic to the heat and then sauté the onion until it is soft. Add the Curry paste and the ground chili and stir until they release their aroma.
Next, crush the Belecan and add it to the pan. Many recipes call for you to toast the Belecan in a piece of foil over an open flame to release the full flavor but you can omit that step for this experiment. Now, add the tomatoes and turn down the heat. Allow everything to simmer for about twenty or thirty minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce reduces a little and the flavors have blended nicely.
When the sauce is ready, turn up the heat to medium once again and add the Prawns. Cook until they are cooked through and everything is nice and hot, then stir in the scallion.
You can serve at this point, but the dish will be much better if you allow it to cool completely and then re-heat it just before you are ready to eat. This also has the added benefit of allowing you to do most of the preparation in advance and will make things a lot easier for you if you are serving it along with several other dishes.
This turned out very nicely. For the past dozen or so times I have made it, I used Salted Korean Shrimp to give it that nice umami boost but the Belacan worked really well on this occasion and I will certainly use it again. It may also be an interesting experiment to try making the sauce with fresh tomatoes sometime, as the added acid tang would probably be nice and the color of the finished dish would be quite pleasant as well, I think. I should also note that the teaspoon of Cayenne I added made for rather a fiery result, so some readers might want to decrease that a little. As it was, my wife and I really enjoyed the heat…