Auntie Ruby's Fried Assam Prawns (Fried Tamarind Prawns)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I am glad I am moving away from eggs and Sous Vide with this post. My mum would have found it amusing and rather beyond her, if she sees the gadget and wires in the kitchen.

She loved soft-boiled eggs. If she had tasted my home-made ones, I am sure she would have egged me on. She would have spared no effort at making a dish as delicious as possible. Some readers are confused as to the fuss: 45 mins is too long! For a millionth time, let me repeat this: I do have the plastic drip egg-maker and I do know how to perfect them the 5-7 minute way. I may still return to it from time to time, but the 45 min Onsen Tamago way is different.

This illustrates again what I have said here about an observation I have made since childhood: cheap produce, if cooked with some effort can produce spectacular result. What I like about eggs is that they are so cheap and common. You can have them soft-boiled, hard-boiled, scrambled, sunny side up, or on your salads and flavorful bowl of ramen. The humble egg can be put to great service at any meal throughout the day, home or restaurant. If you make it well, it turns into something special.

Moving away from eggs and talking abut cheap, Southeast Asian folks are blessed with a wonderful variety of good and easily available fresh prawns. And at about $10 per kilo for medium-sized ones, they are relatively cheap here.

One of my Mum's favourite way of making them is fried Assam Prawns. For my siblings and me, prawns cooked this way is top on the list. They may not look pretty (you would have read this post about the ugly crustacean) but prawns cooked this way are incredibly appetizing. This Nyonya dish also makes for a great Nasi Lemak accompaniment.

Auntie Ruby's Fried Assam Prawns (Tamarind Paste)

Download recipe if PDF format here

tamarind paste
medium sized thin shelled prawns
a bowl
1 kilo
1.      Soak in a bit of hot water.
2.      Fabricate. Can be left whole, shells and all but cut off the hair and sharp horn at the head. Alternatively, you can peel the shell off at the center, exposing some of the meat, before you marinate it.
dark soya sauce
white pepper powder
2 teaspoon
2 teaspoon
2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon
3.      Add the tamarind and marinate the prawns with it, along with sugar, salt, pepper and dark soya sauce. Marinade for 2 hours and leave it in the fridge.
4.      Heat up a pan with half a cm of oil. Use medium flame but control it, alternating between low to medium.
5.      Cook till the prawns are crisp, caramelized and aromatic.
6.       Drain in colander and paper towel.

For your comfort, I have listed out the measurements. But this is one dish which you should try making with your taste buds and learn to adjust along the way. The components of sweet, salty and sour (tamarind) combine well together. The dark soy sauce adds to the caramelization when you fry the prawns.

Tamarind paste: Soak in a bit of hot water. Then press with your fingers to extract the juice. You do not need to remove the seeds. Just pour the tamarind and marinate the prawns with it, along with sugar, salt, pepper and dark soya sauce. For more details on tamarind preparation, visit this post.
Tamarind pulp:After soaking in a bit of hot water
and presssed or stirred

Prawns: Marinate for hour or two in the fridge. Any thin shelled sea type will do. Avoid the thick skin variety (e.g. tiger prawns) The prawn can be eaten whole, shells and all. Alternatively, you can peel the shell off at the center, exposing some of the meat, before you marinate it. Some of your guests may prefer that. You can also use large prawns if you wish.

Use shallow pan frying: Pan-searing is a effective way of caramelising the shells and marinate sauce. If you deep fry, the marinate will dissipate. You will have a cleaner looking prawn but it won't be as tasty. Take the prawns out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Heat up about half a cm of oil in a flat pan. Use medium flame but control it, alternating between low to medium. It really depends on how many prawns you add to the pan. You should hear some sizzling when you put the prawns in. The idea is to crisp the exterior while keeping the meat moist. The prawns need to look burnt in parts, caramelized and aromatic. Think umami. You can easily adjust the taste if it is not salty enough before you fry the rest up. After frying, put them in a colander or on top of a paper towel so that the oil can drain out. Oh well, you should know this.

Shallow pan-frying
This dish is very appetising and though best eaten with rice, it is great on its own. In fact, the taste gets better the next day. I heat it up and crunch it like a snack, crushing the head and all as I watch Man U doing the same to yet another EPL team. 

This Auntie Ruby's dish is easy to make. Remember, the uglier it looks, the better the taste will be.  Give it a try.

(I have written another post on this recipe here)

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  1. One of the most authentic and well done fried assam prawns. I have not eaten this dish for many many years and this posting sure does inspire me. Great stuff!

  2. i was "transported" back to home n childhood days with this dish( this recipe) today.... excited to try out the rest of ur mama's recipe! thanks for sharing them!


  3. May I know if this marinade will work for BBQ? Looks & sound delicious!

    1. Ya, it should. Best with seafood but good w meat too. Give it a try.

  4. Hello Admin,

    Can we exchange link and buzz me if you done so that we can link your site too. Thank you!