A normal Saturday lunch in my household is usually a quick and hassle-free one, using available ingredients in my kitchen larder, fridge and freezer.
Last Saturday, however, my fridge was unusually, bare. I had a few stalks of spring onions, with parts of the greens turning brown, two small carrots, a green chilli and 8 small witloofs (Belgian endives) that I bought the previous week or two. Okay, veg was taken care of. Now, the protein. I walked down the basement where the freezer stands under the stairs. I started rummaging the compartments of the freezer for any interesting proteins that caught my eye.
I found not one, but two!! ‘Hidden’ somewhere in one of the freezer compartments, were 2 packets of prawns; one, with shells intact, and another, without. That was a gem of a find, I must say. I must have bought excess packets of prawns when I had friends over for a Laksa feast not too long ago.
Nope, I was not going to make Laksa again, so I had to put on my thinking cap. The first thing that came to my mind was curried prawns, but that would be too boring as I have cooked that on several occasions. Furthermore, I was missing some vital ingredients, so definitely no curry prawns 🙂
The Books That Saved My Day
As a matter of fact, I did not have to look far at all. In March, I had placed orders for 2 Thermomix Cookbooks. I had wanted to order more books, but due to the exorbitant shipping costs from Asia to Europe, I had to weigh my priorities. I contacted the “Suppliers” who immediately sent snapshots of the Table of Contents of a few Cookbooks. I was in love with 2 of the Cookbooks! “I just got to have them!” . Some friends wanted to know why I needed to buy the Cookbooks when I can already cook most of the Malaysian dishes. Erm …. Some dishes typical to West Malaysians are only starting to gain popularity in Sarawak and Sabah. When I was a kid growing up in Kuching, chwee kueh, pan mee, otak-otak, pulut tai tai, lo mai gai, lu rou fan, etc were unheard of. I grew up eating dishes I knew best : kolo mee, midin, mani chai, kueh chap, umai, kompia, kampua mee, Sarawak laksa, manok pansoh, terung dayak, ka chang ma, belacan beehoon, teh C special, linut, tomato kway teow, tumpik, kek lapis Sarawak … Well, I am pretty certain these dishes were unknown to our West Malaysian friends a decade or two ago, too. When I had my first taste of pan mee and chwee kueh in Belgium some 3 years ago, prepared by a friend who hails from KL, I could not get enough of those dishes, id est, if I’m craving for them, I’ve got to cook them myself. Likewise, after a long and hard day at work, I get home feeling like a ton of bricks raining on me. Then I would need something quick, fresh and nourishing and the pre-defined steps in the TM Cookbook is an absolute blessing.
When the Cookbooks arrived in April (different delivery dates), I was over the moon. I have tried a few of the dishes already from both books. Last Saturday, I picked out one dish from each Cookbook. With two 500g-packet of frozen prawns ready to be consumed, I went straight to the Seafood section of the Cookbooks for some inspiration.
There were a few prawn dishes in the Cookbooks, but those 2 recipes caught my attention. I had all the ingredients, or almost! They are ridiculously simple to make, but will they taste ridiculously awesome?
Let’s find out …
From the Daily Asian Cookbook (DAC), I chose Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, pg 69
From Annie Xavier’s TM Cooks, You Relax (vol 1), I chose Tamarind Prawn, pg 54
The Battle of the Prawns. Bring ‘em on …!!
The DAC came with a cook chip, which made cooking a breeze. For the Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, I used the prawns with shells intact (without heads, though). I thawed both packs of prawns until it’s manageable to de-vein the shelled ones. The peeled prawns were all clean and good to go.
By the way, I followed the recipe from the DAC to a tee,
For the Tamarind Prawns, I had to modify Annie’s recipe a bit as her recipe calls for 250g prawns with shells and heads intact, while I had a 500g–pack of peeled and de-veined prawns. I did not double the other ingredients either, as I know doubling the measurement of sugar, for instance would result in a way-too-sweet dish, which will not be appetizing at all. I used dark brown sugar, by the way. I also used the sweet type of dark soy sauce, hence, I had to adjust the taste as I went along. On the other hand, I used concentrated cooking tamarind while balancing the sweet and sour flavor that I really wanted in the end.
I garnished the prawns with some left-over spring onions and one thinly sliced green chillies.
I followed both recipes using almost exactly the same ingredients with small modifications to the quantity according to desired taste. My family loves seafood, hence, serving prawns to them was not an issue.
Now the taste test. I steamed Jasmine rice to go with the prawn dishes. I also cooked Belgian endives with carrot using the DAC recipe for Stir-fried cabbage with carrot.
After some munching, there was total silence….
I asked the guys which prawn dish was their favourite.
Annie’s tamarind prawn has a darker colour. I’m guessing that she used the saltier version of dark soy sauce. I did not have that soy sauce. Instead, I used the Thai version of dark soy sauce, which is similar to the Indonesian kicap manis. In order not to end up with an overly sweet dish, I had to adjust the amount of the soy sauce. My dish ended up quite saucy which went well with the plain steamed rice, so no complaints there. I also like my dish with a bit of heat, hence, the garnishing of the green chillies was Da Bomb!
The dishes were placed next to each other on the dining table. Like holding a pair of L-shaped metal dowsing rod, both my boys pointed their fingers in opposite direction to the platters infront of them at the same time, meaning, the guys had absolutely no preference to dish A or dish B.
Both dishes were equally scrumptious. One was sweet and sour. I added green chillies to unite the trinity of flavours as well as for colour. At first I thought 12 garlic cloves were a lot for 250 g prawns (see, it’s not possible to double the quantity of garlic with my 500 g prawns! Important is to use your intuition and creativity), but I’m certain Annie knows what she’s talking about. We absolutely LOVE the garlicky taste, which was not too overpowering as the garlics were crushed/ bruised and not finely chopped. After all, the dish is called Tamarind Prawns and not Garlic Prawns 😉
The other dish was lightly savoury with a hint of heat coming from the dried chillies. The guided cooking for the crispy stir fried prawns was spot on where taste, timing and texture were concerned. Maybe next time, I will increase the quantity of dried chillies 🙂
Guess what? I have bookmarked both the recipes and have classified them as “Tried and Tested”