Sunday 19 August 2012

Assam Prawns (Tamarind Prawns)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been drooling over many mouth-watering Nyonya dishes posted by several blogger friends for the Malaysian Food Fest. I love Nyonya food and thought it would be great to be able to try out some dishes and take part in the event. However, I’m not much of a chef and the thought of cooking with unfamiliar ingredients seemed rather intimidating. Nyonya dishes are typically made up of many different types of ingredients and spices, some of which I have never heard of to begin with! Fortunately, I came across this Assam Prawn recipe, a Nonya favourite, which looked easy enough and had only a few ingredients.

This is my first attempt at cooking a Nyonya dish and it turned out pretty well. According to the recipe, you can either fry the prawns with or without the tamarind pulp and juice. I poured it in while the prawns were sizzling away on the pan and cooked  it till it dried up.  The marinade made the prawns very tasty and I love how the tamarind pulp and juice browned on the prawn shells. I found the prawns a little rather dry though (I read that some people like it this way) and I think it would have been perfect to have some tamarind sauce over the prawns. The next time I do this, I’ll make more of the marinade mixture, thicken it and serve it over the prawns.

A little history about Nyonya food – it also referred to as Straits Chinese food or Lauk Embok Embok, which is an interesting amalgamation of Chinese and Malay dishes thought to have originated from the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) of Malacca over 400 years ago.
Tamarind Prawn/Assam Prawns
Recipe from Rasa Malaysia
  • 8 oz shell-on prawns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
Method: Mix the tamarind pulp with 4 tablespoons water. Extract the juice from the tamarind by pressing the pulp. Remove the heads of the prawns. Devein the prawns by slitting the back. Rinse prawns with water and pat dry with paper towers. Add the tamarind juice and pulp, salt, and sugar into the prawns and mix well with your hand. Marinate for 15 minutes (I marinated for 30 minutes). Remove the tamarind pulp before cooking (I fried the prawns together with the tamarind pulp and juice). Heat up a wok and add cooking oil. As soon as it’s heated, drop the prawns into the wok and pan fry until cooked and slightly burnt. Dish out and serve immediately.

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