Tamarind is one of those things that always caught my eye at the market but never made it into my cooking. A few months ago I bought a package of frozen tamarind pulp, knowing that if it was taking up space in my not-so-spacious freezer, I’d have to use it eventually. Well, that day finally came!
When the coconut yogurt sauce became coconut flatbread, I needed a little bit more for a meal than bread alone. What would go well with coconut? Well, I thought tamarind might be the perfect thing! When I bought the pulp I was thinking chicken, but we were in the mood for seafood, so I found a great Thai recipe and we headed off to the nearby Asian market to get some prawns.
Spicy Tamarind Prawns with Crispy Shallots and Garlic
–adapted from Temple of Thai—
-1 lb. large prawns or shrimp (about 16-20 count)
-1/4 cup peanut oil
-2 large shallots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
-8 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
-1/3 cup tamarind pulp
-4 dried red chilies (I used Japanese ones), cut into 2-3 pieces each
-1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
-2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, chopped with seeds
-2 tbsp fish sauce
-1 tbsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
-1 tbsp Maggi seasoning sauce (substitute with salt to taste if you wish to avoid MSG)
-1 tbsp palm or coconut sugar, or substitute light brown sugar
-1 green onion, chopped
-Cilantro sprigs for garnishing
2.Heat oil over medium-high heat in a medium frying pan. Add shallots and fry, stirring occasionally, until pieces are browned and crisp, about 10-20 minutes. Use a wire-mesh strainer to remove from the oil and place on a paper towel. (NOTE: Many Asian markets carry jars of already fried shallots, similar to the fried onion pieces you might put over green bean casserole. I picked up some of these, so I skipped this step).
3.If needed, add more oil to the pan, and then add garlic. Fry until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove with wire-mesh strainer and drain on a paper towel with the shallots. Reserve the oil.
4. Transfer the oil to a very hot wok and swirl to coat the surface. Heat the oil for a few seconds, then add the chopped red chilies. (Make sure your cooking area is well ventilated and watch your eyes, because this will create a lot of spicy, stinging smoke!) Fry for only about 30-60 seconds, until they change to a dark red color. Remove from wok with wire-mesh strainer and drain with shallots and garlic.
5. Now for the sauce: Add onion and jalapeños/serranos to the wok and sauté until softened. Add tamarind pulp, fish sauce, chili sauce, Maggi seasoning sauce or salt, and palm (or coconut, or brown) sugar to the wok. Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil (this should happen pretty quickly).
6. Add the prawns and cook over high heat, stirring frequently. Continue until the sauce thickens and the prawns are cooked, about 2-4 minutes. Make sure to flip the prawns so they cook evenly.
7. When everything is done, divide into serving bowls and top with the crispy shallot, garlic, and red chili mix. Garnish with sliced green onion and a couple sprigs of cilantro.
This stuff definitely has some spice to it, so feel free to tone down the amount of chili sauce, dried and fresh chilies if you prefer something a bit milder!
We served it with that yummy flatbread I told you about in yesterday’s post, and it was a delectable combination!