500 g/1 lb shelled raw prawns
walnut-sized piece of dried tamarind*
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sambal ulek
or 8 fresh red chillies
2 teaspoons chopped galangal
2 stems lemon grass, bruised
or 2 strips thinly peeled lemon rind
1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
Chop prawns into pieces the size of a peanut. Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup hot water, squeeze to dissolve pulp and strain out the seeds and fibres.
Heat oil in a frying pan and fry onion, garlic and ginger until soft and starting to turn golden. Add sambal ulek, galangal and lemon grass or rind, then add chopped prawns and fry, stirring constantly, until prawns change colour.
Add tamarind liquid to prawns and simmer on low heat until gravy is thick and oil starts to separate. Remove lemon grass or rind. Stir in salt and sugar. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Serve as a side dish with rice and curries.
* If more convenient, use tamarind purée or tamarind concentrate, available in plastic jars and about the consistency of tomato paste. Do not confuse with instant tamarind which is almost solid and sold in small containers.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)