Prawns, Prawns, Prawns… Join Me To Cook Assam Prawns

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INTRODUCTION

This is a long awaited post on prawns and some of the picture were a few months ago. This is a special post on Chinese ways of preparing prawns for cooking purposes and including one tamarind prawn recipe.

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Prawns are one of the major ingredients in Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese cooking. Due to the countries’ proximity to the sea, seafood is plentiful abundant and prawns are used in many cuisines. We used prawns in  vegetable dishes, noodle dish, salad or a dish on its own. It can be pan fried, deep fried and baked, stir fried, steamed, blanch, poached or boiled. 

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DE SHELLING THE PRAWNS

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  • Use a kitchen scissor to cut off the head or use your hand by snapping the head and pulling the head downward. Use the hand that had pulled away the head earlier, starting from the bottom near the leg area, use your finger to pluck upwards and detach the shell from the body of the prawns.

  • If you want to keep the tail, you can leave the last segment of the shell unpluck. If you do not want to keep the tail, use your hand to squeeze the prawns near the tail area and pull it out.

  • Keep both the tails and heads of the prawn if you want to prepare prawn broth for other noodle cuisines.

1234272_10202030577588822_2039794140_n Sarawak Laksa using both shelled prawns and prawn broth

 


COOKING PRAWNS WITH SHELL

As the head and tail of a prawn is rather sharp, if I am cooking the cuisine with shelled prawns, I will use the following method.

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  • Use a kitchen scissor to cut the sharp part of the head and its tentacles. Use the scissor to cut away the legs and follow by the sharp part of the tail. This is good for cuisine that requires shelled prawns  so as to prevent the prawns from overcook. Example of cuisines are tamarind prawns or steamed prawns.

IMG_8197 Tamarind prawns with shell and heads

 


DEVEINING THE PRAWNS 

It is unsightly if the delicious cooked prawns have black intestines in its white flesh. Therefore, deveining the prawns is deemed necessary for bigger prawns. At times, the prawns are rather clean and no deveining is necessary.

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  • Use a small knife to cut along the top part following the shape of the prawns,  Use your hand to pull away the intestines. This is also a step to shape the prawns when cooked. If you cut it further inside, the “flower” shape of the cooked prawns will be more obvious.

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  • For the lower intestine, use a toothpick to pierce through the intestine near the end of the tail. Use the same toothpick to pierce under the intestine in the middle of the prawn. Take the toothpick out by cutting open the prawn fresh above the intestine. When you take the toothpick out, the intestine near the tail will follow the toothpick and comes out. Use your hand to pull away the intestine. Note that you have to be slightly careful when performing the steps so as to avoid breaking the intestines.

IMG_8368  Blanched vegetables with blanched prawns


WASHING AND FREEZING THE PRAWNS

This is how I usually freeze my prawns to avoid damaging to the meats of the prawns in the event I do not have the time to properly defrost the prawns.

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  • Wash your de-shelled prawns with clean water. Divide the prawns for individual serving and put it in the plastic bag. Add a small amount of water to the plastic bags and and keep it in the freezer. To defrost, just take out the prawns and let it defrost at room temperature. If you do not have adequate time, cut open the plastic bag, put it under running water and the prawns can be separated easily when the ice melts.

 


MAKING OF PRAWN BROTH

Prawn shells and prawn heads can be “recycled” to make prawn broths which can then be used for the making of many noodles dishes. it is also a good source of iron and calcium.

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  • Wash the prawn shells and prawn heads and set aside. In a big pot of water, add some spring onion and ginger slices (optional), prawn shells, prawn heads and bring to boil under high heat.

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  • Once boiled, drain and transfer to a food processor. Keep the broth. Blend until fine, transfer it back to the broth and let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Drain again, cool and keep the broth in the fridge for uses such as Hokkien Prawn Noodles, Penang Prawn Noodles, Sarawak Laksa broth and etc. You can keep in the fridge for quite a number of few weeks. Color of the broth will very much depends on the types of prawns that you bought. If it is female prawns with lots of eggs, it will be orangey in colour.

img_6339 Hokkien Fried Prawns Noodles prepared using prawn broth

 


ASSAM PRAWNS (TAMARIND PRAWNS)

This is a Peranakan dish (Nonya dish).  I am not Peranakan, however, my mum used to cook this when we are young. I have not eaten this prawn dish for quite a while and I am happy that I managed to replicate the dish without much difference in the flavour. The cooked prawns should be coated with slightly burnt and/or caramelized tamarind. It should looked dark and taste should be sour with tinges of sweetness. Tamarind is also called Assam in the Malay Language.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 500 grams of prawns with shells (refer above)

  • 1-2 sticks of fresh lemon grass

  • 5 cloves of garlics cut into slices

  • 3 small bird eye chilli or 1-2 big chilli (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind (or Assam paste)

  • 2 tablespoons of castor sugar (not in picture)

  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (not in picture)

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Put all ingredients together, stir well, ensure that all the prawns are coated with herbs and pastes. Marinate the prawns for 2-3 hours in the fridge.

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  • In a big frying pan, heat the oil using high heat. Add the marinated prawns together with the sauces and the herbs. Stir fry for one minute. Add half cup of water and bring to boil. Once boil, turn to medium heat and continue to cook until the water dries up. You will witness the colour for your prawns start to get darker and glossier as the water evaporates. It is okay if there is a slight burnt in the shells of the prawns.

  • Scoop out the cooked prawns and all the remaining sauces. Garnish with some greens such as coriander leaves if prefer. Best serve hot with white rice.

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CONCLUSION

The first part of the post is to share with readers how I prepare my prawns for cooking and the second part of the post is a recipe of tamarind prawns.

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For the tamarind prawns, don’t worry about the dark colour of the dish. The dark coloured sauce is the most tasty part of the entire dish. It is a blend of tamarind paste, herbs and caramelized sugar. It is both sweet and sour. I don’t mean to be gross, we suck the juices from the prawn head too. Once you try it, I am sure you will like it. But remember, don’t stain your cloth…… use hand to eat….and wash you hand with lemon or some cold tea to get rid of the “aroma” of the prawns. To sum up, if you eat with your hands, it should be finger licking good…

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Hope you like the post together. Cheers and have a nice day.

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 GUAI SHU SHU | Guai Shu Shu is a “shu shu” that is “guai“….


  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 8 June 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  

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Don’t “Gaduh” over “Gado Gado”–Indonesian One Dish Salad, Gado Gado

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INTRODUCTION

I used to travel a lot when I am in the corporate world. Most of the time, I need to travel and stay in the hotel by myself and at times, the trips will stretch to weeks or months. I still remember my 2 years secondment to Hong Kong and Shanghai, more than 80% of my stay was in the hotel. Room services was very common and cafes at the hotel become my “dining hall”. During these times, one of my favourite order was the “look-alike” home cooked was gado gado since the food was served with peanut aka satay sauce. Of course, other favourites in the hotel will include Singapore Hainanese Chicken rice and Singapore Fried Bee Hoon (新洲炒米粉)。

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That is how I first got in touch with gado gado. Gado gado in essence is Indonesian’s salad with peanut sauce. However, unlike Western salad, it is a one pot dish, meaning one can have gado gado as the main meal.

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Gado gado in Indonesia means plural for “mixing” action and it shall not be confused with “gaduh gaduh” in Malaysia which means heated arguments.

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There are a few versions of Gado gado in Indonesia depending on which part of Indonesia you are in and this version is called “Gado Gado Siram” which was what I usually have in hotels and Indonesian Restaurants. Essentially, vegetables were cooked separately, put together in one plate and add some peanut sauce were poured on top, mixed and served.

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PREPARING OF PEANUT SUACE (Serving of about 5-6 adults) 

What is required

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Ingredients A

  • 50 grams of chilli powder (or dry chilli)

  • 100 grams of garlics

  • 40 grams of galangal (blue ginger)

  • 40 grams of lemon grass

  • 1 tablespoon of cumin powder

  • 1 tablespoon of coriander powder

(You can either use the powder form of the above ingredients or use its original form of raw ingredients)

Ingredients B

  • 500 grams of peanuts (coarsely ground)

  • 10 tablespoons of castor sugar or gula melaka (coconut palm sugar)

  • 5 tablespoons of cooking oils

  • Pinches of salt

  • Pinches of turmeric powder (optional)

  • 3 big tablespoons of tamarind paste (assam)

  • 5 cups of water

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Steps of Preparation

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  • Use a food processor to blend all the ingredients (except powder ingredients) in “A” until fine. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle to pound the non-powder ingredients until fine as in the picture. 

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  • In  a big frying pan, add the cooking oil and stir fried the ingredients as in A until fragrance. Add in tamarind, water and remaining ingredients B (coarsely chopped peanut, sugar, salt) and bring to boil.

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  • Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce thickens and oil start to appear on top of the peanut sauce. Off the heat and stir in pinches of turmeric powder (optional) and add some hot water if the peanut sauce is too thick. Set aside for later use.

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PREPARING THE SIDE INGREDIENTS

No quantities will be stated here as it is very much depends on your personal preferences.  Most ingredients are substitutable except the most common and must have are long beans, fried tau kwa). I did not prepare all the ingredients as I am having it by myself  and I will not be able to  finish if I used all the ingredients. However, I will list out the other side ingredients.

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  • Peanut sauce (as mentioned above)

  • Some long beans (cut into 4-5 cm) – blanched

  • Some bean sprouts – blanched

  • Some kangkong (convolvulus) – blanched

  • Some hard boiled eggs – cut into half

  • Some taukwa – deep fried and cut into slices – See below

  • Some cucumbers _ julienned into small chunks

  • Some lettuce – chopped

  • Some Empiring/Melinjo crackers (Indonesian padi oats crackers)-optional

Not in the pictures above

  • Some cabbages – blanched

  • Some potatoes – boiled and cut into cubes

  • Some lontong (rice cakes) – cut into small pieces

  • Some prawn crackers  (keropok udang)

  • Some tempeh (soya bean cakes) – cut into small pieces – optional

  • Fried Shallot.

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Deep Frying the Taukwa

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  • Marinate the taukwa (drier version of bean curd) with some salt, white pepper and coriander sauces. Deep fried under medium heat until the skin is crispy yet the inside is soft. Cut into small pieces and set aside for future use.

Blanching The Vegetables

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  • In a wok or frying pan, put some water, drizzles of oil and some salt and bring the water to boil. Add in beansprouts, green beans and kangkong (convolvulus) in this order. Take out and set aside for later use.

 


ASSEMBLING THE INGREDIENTS AND SERVINGS

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  • Arrange the lettuce on the serving plate and place all blanched vegetables , taukwa, eggs on top of it.

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  • Pour the warm peanut sauce over and garnish with Melinjo or prawn crackers and additional fried shallots, if desired.

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CONCLUSION

  • This is a rather simple dish to prepare except a bit laborious. However, it is a healthy dish as it is packed with vegetables and I like to eat it as a one dish meal.

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  • Only pour sauce over the vegetables before serving otherwise, the peanut sauce may become watery due to the water excreted from the vegetables. If the sauce is too thick, add in some hot water and heat it up. Warm sauce is always preferred. For left over sauces, you can freeze it and used for other noodles dish (Satay Bee Hoon) or as dips for Satay.

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Hope you like the post today and have a nice day. Cheers.

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Salted Vegetable Duck Soup (咸菜鸭)– A Quick and Easy Way to Prepare This Traditional Soup Dish

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INTRODUCTION

This is a soup dish that I have always craved for it。 It is rather extraordinary as not many Fujian Chinese soup dish are as sour as this dish。 However, it is a well liked dish that most Chinese households would have their own recipe for this soup and every household will claim that theirs is the best. Though it is commonly thought of a Hokkien/Teochew/Peranakan (dialects) cuisines. however, to be more precise, it  is a Fujian province soup and even in People’s Republic of China, they have recipe for this soup.

When I was young, the soup were only prepared when they were big festivals or religious prayers. The main reasons were that ducks were relatively expensive and will only be served at big festivals. In addition, during religious festivals, lots of food were cooked and it is unlikely to finish all the foods in one day, this soup which is sour was less prone of turning bad if keep for a day or two as most households do not have refrigerators in the 1960’s. Thirdly, duck is very difficult to cook, traditional way will need braising of duck until the meat are soft and tender and the flavour of the salted vegetable starts to penetrate into the duck meat. Therefore, it is cooked only occasionally.

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Traditionally, the duck meat were braised for hours before it can be served. It is also a common belief that the soup be left overnight to become even tastier. However, with the introduction of new cooking equipment, the cooking time have cut short considerably. I have used one hour to cook this dish and get the same taste that my mum would have prepared for at least half a day. For this illustration, I have used pressure cooker that cut short the time considerably. However, previously, I have also use rice cooker (soup function) to cook the soup and slow cooker to boil overnight. However, the best equipment is still the usage of pressure cooker followed by rice cooker and finally slow cooker.

The most basic ingredients of this soup are ducks, salted vegetables, Chinese preserved sour plums and gingers. Ginger is a must because it will counter effect the cooling effect brought by the consumption of salted vegetables.  Chinese generally discouraged consumption of preserved vegetables as it will introduce “wind” to the body. All other ingredients are side ingredients which in my humble opinion are optional.

To make it even more sour, cooks are using tomatoes (which appeared to be an essential ingredient now), asam kulit (tamarind slices), vinegar, lemon and marinated lemon. Other more common ingredients are dried mushrooms, garlics and red carrots. There are also recipes in the internet that have  chilli, brandy as their ingredients!!!!!

For me, a good bowl of soup should be sweet (from the meat broth) and sour (not extremely sour) with a blend aroma of ginger and salted vegetables. Meat must be tender and soft.



WHAT IS REQUIRED ….

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  • 500 g of salty preserved Chinese Mustard
  • 1 kg of duck meat  (about half a whole duck  and de-skinned if preferred).

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  • 50 g of red carrots cut in small pieces
  • 10 small dried mushrooms soaked in water
  • 3 big whole garlics
  • 100 g of gingers (peel off the skin)
  • 100 g of tomatoes cut into big pieces
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 3 sour plums that can easily get from Chinese provision shops.
  • 6-8 cups of water (estimation)

Note:

Only the salted vegetables, duck, gingers and sour plum are the main ingredients. All other ingredients are side ingredients which are optional and a matter of personal preferences. Volume listed here are also for reference only as it is rather hard for you to get an exact 1 kg duck.. so full flexibility here.

It is advisable that you soak the preserved vegetable first before you cook the soup. I would rather soaked the salted vegetable for a longer time to reduce the saltiness and if the final soup is not salty enough, I will add salt to the dish. I usually soak the vegetable for at least half an hour.



STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Layer your ingredients (except tomatoes)  between salted vegetables and meat and other ingredients . Why it is not a must but I have the habits of layering the ingredients to ensure the meat were well seasoned by the ingredients)
  • Add 6-8 cups of water or about 1.5 times the height of your ingredients. Note: if you are using pressure cooker, you can use this amount of water. However, if you are using rice cooker or stove to boil the soup, you may need at least 10 cups of water until the meat get tender and soft. It is ok to start with this volume of water and if the volume of water is not enough, you can add water along the way.
  • For pressure cooker, select “meat function” and it will took approximately 25-30 minutes. After cooking, let it rest in the pot for at least 15-30 minutes as it will continue to cook. BE CAREFUL WHEN HANDLING PRESSURE COOKER.  For rice cooker, select “soup function” and if after the first cooking, the meat is still or tender, you can select another round of soup function and stop when the meat have your required tenderness.  I usually cooked this before I went to bed and the next day, every thing is perfect.
  • When done, add in the fresh tomato and close the lid and rest for another 10 minutes before serving.

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  • Preferably served hot with rice .

 


CONCLUSION

  • This is a rather short post on one of the traditional Chinese soup dishes – Salted Vegetable Duck Soup. The reasons for the exact combinations of these two main ingredients are unknown. Possibly duck needs time to braise and salted vegetable can withstand long hour of braising. Ginger is a must, in my humble opinion to get rid of the meat raw smell and also have to role of preventing gas formation when consuming preserved vegetables. Sour plum is the traditional ingredient to make this soup sour though the present method have resort to the use of tomatoes, lemons, tamarind slices and etc. All other ingredients are optional and quantity can varies according to your own preferences.
  • Traditionally, the soup was cooked over charcoal stoves where you need at least 2 to 3 hours or longer to get the desire meat texture and soup flavour. However, with the pressure cooker as in this illustration, the cooking time have cut down considerably and it is easier to control the quality of the soup. Rice cooker soup function is another alternatives than can be considered.
  • While the soup is tasty and nice, excess consumption is not  recommended as this soup is consider as cooling according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. In addition, those with stomach acidity will also need to watch out the volume of consumption.

Hope you like it. It is not as difficult as what it is thought. It is a bowl of soup that I could never resists and you should be proud to modify the recipe to suit your families taste buds. Happy trying. Cheers.

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