Santan Prawns

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photo credit: Goh Eck Kheng
This is a dish Mum made regularly.

She simply called it Santan Prawns. As I have not encountered this dish outside our home, I am not sure what the real name is or whether it was my Mum who concocted this recipe. In any case, it has obvious Thai-Northern Malay influence and is somewhat similar to Tom Yum Soup.

It’s easy to prepare and fast to cook. Is it a soup or a curry? It leans more to the former. Diners should have a separate bowl to scoop it in and drink from there.

The thin shelled sea prawns (i.e. crystal prawns) will taste better in this compared to tiger prawns with thicker shells. Leave the heads and shells on the prawns. If you have to peel them, just remove the center body shells for easier eating. The flavours from the inside of the head is important for the broth. Kaffir lime leaves and galangal, like tea leafs, are meant to impart scent and flavor to the soup. Don’t boil them for too long as it will impart a bitter tinge to the soup. Use fresh coconut milk if you can.

It’s better to use a claypot for this so that you can serve it from stove to the table and keep the soup heated for the dinner.

600 g large prawns (trimmed)
2 tbsps oil
1 tsp belachan paste
1 tsp salt
10 shallots, sliced
10 cloves garlic, sliced
400 ml water
100 ml fresh coconut milk
2 tsp chilli paste

3 lemongrass bulbs, smashed
2½ cm turmeric (kunyit), finely sliced
1 inch galangal (lengkuas), sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 green chillies, each sliced each into 3 pieces

Coriander leafs
1 Thai Lime or 2 small limes (kalamansi)

Heat the oil in a small pot or claypot.

Add the slices of shallots and garlic. Add belachan, chilli paste and salt. Stir for about 2 minutes till fragrant.

Pour in the water and coconut milk. Gently heat it up and then add the rest of the herbs. 

Increase the fire and when the broth starts to simmer, add the prawns. Cover the pot and switch off the fire. 

The prawns should be cooked through after 5 minutes. 

Squeeze some lime juice on it, garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately. Best eaten with rice.

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