Peranakan-Style Sambal Udang Kering (Sambal Heh Bee)
Posted January 20, 2011on:
Some of my fondest childhood memories revolves around me and my grandmother who used to bring me to a nearby restaurant off Jalan Loke Yew. They served one of the best nasi lemak I have ever had. If you are familiar with the dish, it comes with a classic spicy tamarind-chilli paste called sambal. It is very intense and because of my young age, the seller decided that I should have some sambal udang kering in lieu of the real thing. It has a milder kick to it but it is bursting with toasty prawn flavor that kept me asking for more.
Sambal udang kering is a good example of a Peranakan-style condiment. It is essentially a Malay-Chinese fusion, blending the Malay’s passion for everything spicy and the Chinese’s love for dried pungent seafood. I have been wondering how to make this until I came across a book called “Nonya Flavours” that has an excellent compilation of Peranakan recipes. It really is a melange of chilli, shallots, and tiny dried prawns, slowly roasted in a wok until slightly dried and caramelized. The result is absolutely divine and it goes well with noodles, rice, and just about anything you can think of.
- 150g fresh chillies
- 200g peeled shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 150ml cooking oil
- 300g dried prawns, soaked till soft
- 2 tbsp tamarind juice
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Blend chillies, garlic, and shallots in a food processor until a medium fine minced paste consistency. Reserve in a bowl. Blend dried prawns until coarsely/finely ground depending on your preference. It doesn’t have to be perfect because I left in some larger chunks of dried prawns for some texture.
- Fry chilli paste, dried prawns, tamarind juice, sugar, and salt with oil until slightly dry under medium low heat while stirring constantly. Don’t skimp on the oil. If it’s dry, add a little more just enough to wet the paste. You don’t want too much that the paste is submerged in it.
- After the water mostly evaporated, check the taste and texture and adjust accordingly. Some people like a wetter paste but some like it dry like mine. Most importantly, be patient because the paste takes time to roast and caramelized. It took me about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Once done, let cool and store in a jar. It can last for a long time in the refrigerator.
(recipe adapted from “Nonya Flavours – A complete guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine” by The Star Publications)
- Your whole house would smell like sambal udang kering for a few days. I would recommend that you double the recipe since it is time consuming and it’s going to smell less for double the portions.
- Did I say it’s going to smell?