Fried Prawns in Tamarind Sauce or Assam Heh is a unique dish from the delightful Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine in Malaysia. The Peranakans or Nyonyas are the descendents of the early Chinese migrants to Malaysia who settled in the country and married the local Malays.
Like the Malays, the Nyonyas have a penchant for hot and spicy food, and use a diverse mix of ingredients to create recipes that are unique to them. One of these ingredients is tamarind, a sweet and sour fruit that is widely used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking , and which is featured in this shellfish recipe.
This recipe serves 3.
- Ingredients for Marinade
- 1 ½ lbs large shellfish
- 4 Tbsp tamarind pulp
- ¾ Tbsp salt
- ¾ Tbsp sugar
- ¾ Tbsp dark soy
- Ingredients for Cooking
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- ½ Tbsp salt
Use a sharp serrated knife and cut a slit along the back of each prawn to devein them. Do not remove the shells. Wash the prawns and dry them carefully. Dry the prawns as much as possible, as this is meant to be a dry dish.
Add 2 Tbsp of water to the tamarind pulp. After 5 minutes, use either your fingers or a spoon and loosen up the tamarind pulp so that it mixes with the water and becomes a thick gravy. Use a colander to sift the tamarind juice, making sure not to use any of the tamarind seeds or the thick pulp.
Put all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl together with the prawns. Marinate and leave for at least 3 hours in the fridge.
- Heat 2 Tbsp of cooking oil over high heat.
- Fry the prawns until all the moisture from the prawns and the marinade have evaporated.
- Keep frying until the prawns turn brown.
- Add 1 Tbsp of sugar and ½ tsp of salt.
- Fry for a few more minutes until the salt and sugar have mixed well with the prawns. The prawns are ready when they look slightly burnt.
Serve the Assam Heh with some plain white rice and the Sambal Belacan. Any stir fried vegetable or a salad will go well the Assam prawns and rice and make a healthy and nutritious side dish.