Sambal Udang (Prawns in Spicy Paste) – Whip It UP!

Sambal Udang  (Prawns in Spicy Paste)

Cooking Malay dishes need not be labourious. A homemade sambal and fresh prawns are what’s needed to whip up a tasty meal on busy working days. If you get any surprise Raya visitors, serve them this lip-smacking sambal udang. It will surely get them salivating and asking for more!
By Nur Hidayah

Total Time: < 1 hour
Difficulty: 1/5
Cost: $15.00
Serves: 2 persons

A: Spice Paste (Rempah)

2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thumb size ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thumb size shrimp paste (belacan), dry toasted
15-20 dried chillies, seeds removed, boiled for 15-20 minutes until soft
3 cups cooking oil, set aside 1 tablespoon to cook prawns

B: Prawns, Lemongrass, Tamarind

500g prawns, backs slit and deveined
1 stalk lemongrass, white portion, bruised
1½ tablespoons tamarind extract, store-bought, mixed with 125ml water
2-3 tablespoons sugar
Salt to taste


1. Spice paste: Place A ingredients except oil in a food processor to pulse to fine texture. Set it aside.

2. Heat up a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Toss in prawns sans oil. Cook until water from prawns evaporate, approximately 3 minutes. When prawns are slit, they open up and this speeds up cooking. Set them aside.

3. Heat up the same wok or saucepan again. Pour in 1 tablespoon of oil. Panfry lemongrass for 2-3 minutes until aromatic. The white portion of the lemongrass is preferred as it is the most aromatic part.


4. Add in spice paste. Cook for at least 10-15 minutes until it reaches pecah minyak stage – this is when oil rises to the surface indicating that spice paste is sufficiently cooked. Hence, it will not spoil so easily.

5. Pour in tamarind mixture. Add in sugar to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.

6. Add prawns. Cook for 3-4 minutes until prawns are well coated with sambal. Season with salt to taste.

Serve with steamed rice.

TIPS:  Rempah is also ideal for squid or fried anchovies (ikan bilis). To ensure prawns are fresh, select those with heads firmly attached to their bodies.

They are cooked with their shells not only to keep its meat moist but prevents prawns from shrinking too much.

TECHNIQUE: Precooking prawns in a dry wok or saucepan ensures that sambal does not pick up seafood odour.


Photos:  Nur Hidayah, Evonne Lyn Lee

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