Prawn and Tamarind Curry

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Prawn curries are one of my favourite. Earlier this year another of my prawn recipes made its way into Delicious Magazine – see here – have you tried it yet? Decadent and spoiling, prawns are incredibly tasty, especially if they are of the king prawn variety. I am also a huge fan of tamarind, which has a very sweet and sour taste to it. So married together prawns and tamarind create a very satisfying meal.

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These beauties start off grey, but rest assured as soon as they are cooked in the oil they turn pink almost immediately. I leave the tails on, more for cosmetic reasons than for any other. The rest of the shell is removed, but not discarded (next week I will show you what to do with all those discarded shells and heads), and the black vein that runs along the prawns back is discarded completely.

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Other than peeling and deveining the prawns, this dish is incredibly quick to make and totally doable on a busy work week. Taking time to eat a delicious, comforting meal in the evening I think is so important. If you invest a little bit of time in preparation you really are rewarded with a memorable feast.

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Prawn and Tamarind Curry

serves 4

600g king prawns, peeled but keep the tails on, devein

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/s tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp vegetable oil

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp salt

150 ml of boiling water

fresh coriander leaves to scatter when serving

  1. Peel, devein (make an incision down the back of the prawn to reveal a black vein, remove with a sharp knife and discard) and keep the tails on, scatter with the salt and then place to one side. Don’t forget to keep those shells and heads and I will show you how to make a magnificent prawn broth which turns into a prawn bisque next week!
  2. In a small bowl add the tamarind pulp, ground cumin and coriander, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir to form a smooth paste.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium low heat and then add the garlic and ginger. After a minute add the prawns and stir for a further minute so that they become a lovely pink colour.
  4. Add the tamarind paste and coat the prawns. Immediately add the boiling water and stir. Simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately with either rice, puri or other Indian flat bread.

So simple and yet utterly delicious

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Vietnamese Pancakes – Bahn Xeo

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Savoury food for breakfast has always been my kind of thing. Other than the pain au chocolat craving I had when I was pregnant with my first, savoury food has always been my go to breakfast choice. As such Asian food in general is my idea of heaven. Curry for breakfast, a bowl of hot steaming Vietnamese pho or Vietnamese Bahn Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes), and I am in culinary nirvana. These kind of foods I could eat all day so I am not necessarily suggesting you start cooking Vietnamese pancakes before the school/office run but having the recipe in mind when you want to try something new at any time of day.

 

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Banh Xeo (pronounced Ban say-oh – see video below if you want to sound like a pro) are thin crisp pancakes made with rice flour, coconut milk (or beer in fact), turmeric, and water. Traditionally they are filled with both pork (thinly cut pork belly strips) and prawns, but for mine I have omitted the pork and used just prawns. If you are vegetarian you could equally use some fried tofu, which would taste really good. Xeo actually means ‘sizzling’ in Vietnamese and it is this sound that you want to hear when the pancakes are crisping up. They are also known as ‘happy pancakes’ and you’ll see why after you have tasted your first mouthful.

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I pick up my rice flour from my local Asian supermarket or you can easily buy it online, it’s also only a matter of time before the bigger supermarkets will start stocking it too. I rather love the packaging of the one that I use – it’s got happy flour written all over it!

 

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The turmeric gives the lovely bright yellow hue to the pancakes and I also put in coconut milk. Some central parts of Vietnam do not use coconut milk and instead opt for beer to give the pancakes an extra crispiness, but I personally love the coconut taste to the pancakes.

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Now eating the crispy pancakes can be done in a couple of ways. You can either simply use a knife and fork and eat it like that, or in Vietnam you are often provided with a spoon and large lettuce leaves along with fresh herbs such as coriander and mint. You break off a little of the pancake …..like so

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and then place it on the lettuce leaf, along with the herbs …..

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and then roll it so you are able to pick it up and dip it in your nuoc cham dipping sauce. Easy hey. I cannot stress how delicious this is, so much so that I am craving more of these writing this post. Seriously seek out rice flour and give these a shot – I promise you you won’t regret it.

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Vietnamese Pancakes – Bahn Xeo

Serves 4

Pancake batter

175g rice flour

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

pinch of salt

250ml coconut milk

150ml cold water

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1 tsp coconut/groundnut oil (to go into the pan for each pancake made)

 for the filling

200g king prawns, shelled and deveined

4 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal

125g beansprouts

a handful (per person) of mixed herbs: coriander, mint, thai sweet basil

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

5 tbsp fish sauce

2 small red chillies, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp caster sugar

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

200ml cold water

1 lime, juice only (optional)

1. First you want to make the batter. Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk so that the mixture is smooth and not too thick in consistency. You want to make it a similar consistency as if you were cooking regular European pancakes. Place to one side to rest ideally for at least 30 minutes.

2. To prepare the nuoc cham dipping sauce place the garlic and chilli in a bowl followed by the water, sugar, fish sauce, vinegar and lime (if using). Stir well so that the sugar dissolves. Place to one side.

3. Next prepare the filling. Place a small amount of coconut oil in a pan and cook the prawns on a medium low heat for 3 minutes, turning and stirring as you do so. Once they have become pinker in colour, transfer them to a plate.

4. Heat a large non stick skillet or frying pan and when it is hot add 1 tsp of coconut oil (or ground nut oil) and then ladle in one spoonful of the pancake mixture. Move it around the pan immediately so that it is completely covered. Lower the heat and let it cook for 3 minutes.

5. Place some beansprouts over one half of the pancake, along with some spring onions and place a lid on the pan for a further 2 minutes.

6. Now remove the lid and place the prawns on top of the beansprouts and spring onions. Cook for one more minute checking to see that the underside of the pancake is beginning to bronze slightly and crisp up. Place some fresh coriander, mint, Thai basil on top of the prawns and then fold one half of the pancake over the other. Leave to cook for 20 more seconds and then place on a serving plate with more fresh herbs and some lettuce.

To Serve:

Serve immediately when it is hot. Cut a bit sized portion off the pancake and place on a lettuce leaf. Add a few more herbs and then roll so that you can pick it up and dip it into the nuoc cham dipping sauce.

The video below shows you how to eat it.


Macha Soul tea with Janice Leung and Satay Prawns with Garlic, Lemongrass and Spring Onions

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This blog post has been a long time coming and for that I apologise to you all. I initially wrote the post on the plane coming back from Hong Kong and was rather chuffed with myself as I had, for once, hours to compose and fine tune it.  I was really satisfied with the end result, but then tragedy stuck as I accidently deleted it upon my return owing to the fact that I wasn’t very familiar with my new computer. So this post is very much an abridged version of the original, which in hindsight was probably far too long and rambling anyway.

During my recent visit to Hong Kong I was fortunate enough to meet up with one of Hong Kong’s most dynamic food bloggers, Janice Leung, over a delicious cup of creamy ‘matcha soul’ tea, at a charming little tea house called Sinmei in Sheung Wan. Like many of Hong Kong’s gem eateries and cafes it was hidden on the 5th floor of a commercial building away from the hustle and bustle at street level. It was an oasis of calm and serenity with its mix of vintage Chinese and European furniture giving it a somewhat boho shabby chic vibe.

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Matcha soul tea at Sinmei
Prior to setting up her blog: e-ting food, Janice worked as Assistant Editor at Luxe City Guides, so knows her way around Hong Kong (and a number of other cities in fact) better than most. Most recently however Janice, along with her business partner Vincent Poon, have set up Island East Markets which is Hong Kong’s answer to an organic farmers market.
Janice’s motivation for setting up such an enterprise was down to the fact that she found it increasingly difficult to source good organic produce in Hong Kong; the nearest place for her was in Tao Po, over an hours journey from her house, or the  few stalls on Central Pier 7. Typically the fresh fruit and vegetables you see being sold in the various street markets in Hong Kong comes from mainland China where little or no knowledge is known about where or how it was grown and whether pesticides or fertilizers were used.
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A typical Hong Kong fresh vegetable stall
There was definitely a gap in the market to launch such an enterprise and having spent time traveling the globe as well as living and studying in Melbourne Australia, Janice had seen the positive effect that having a local farmers market had on the community and the farmers alike. She was keen to create an environment where people would want to spend time getting to know the vendors, trying the different foods on offer and a place that families could wile away a few pleasant hours on a Sunday.  As well as edibles and fresh produce, there is handcrafted goods made by local artisans, face painting for the kids and talented local bands. I also particularly like the idea that she has organised for local chefs to come and do food demonstrations using the local food on offer at the market to create delicious dishes that people can replicate at home.
There were a couple of key factors, however, that were paramount to the markets success; firstly she needed the support from the local organic farmers in Hong Kong – namely in the New Territories and secondly she needed a site. For the former she was directed to a body of around 70 farmers who were members of the Organic Farmers Association in Hong Kong, which is similar to the Soil Association in the UK. Using this list as a starting point she introduced the idea to the farmers who responded positively. The second factor could have proved tricky had the Real Estate company Swire Properties not offered them a site in Quarry Bay every Sunday. It was an incredible stroke of good luck that allowed the market to breath life. On Sunday’s the road is closed off to traffic and stalls are set up and a relaxed vibe is allowed to resonate.
So far the market has received a positive reception by vendors and customers alike and although it was closed over the Christmas period it opens up again from Sunday 27th January so if you are living or visiting Hong Kong in the future make sure you take some time out on a Sunday to visit Island East Markets on Tong Chong Street and see for yourself Hong Kong’s answer to an Organic Farmers Market, I know for sure that I will be paying it a visit upon my return in April, in fact I can’t wait!
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The recipe for you today was inspired by a visit to a restaurant called ‘The Chairman’ on Kau U Fong in Central. Similar to Janice’s way of thinking the restaurant is also pro ‘local’ and sourcing premium produce from the New Territories, as well as placing emphasis on home-made as opposed to ready-made. Additives and MSG have no place in their kitchen and whilst the menu may not have as widest selection of dishes compared to some restaurants, the dishes that are on offer hit the mark.
The dish below was inspired by one such dish that I sampled in the restaurant. I hope that I’ve done credit to the original.  After a few false starts on the home-made satay sauce, I think I have found one that hit’s the high note. I hope you ‘ll agree.
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Satay Prawns with Garlic, Lemongrass and Spring Onions with Rice Noodles
Inspired by a similar claypot dish at The Chairman Restaurant in Hong Kong
Serves 4-6 (depending if you are serving other dishes as well)
320g fresh King Prawns (heads removed, shell on or just tails on – up to you)
2 tbsp of ground nut oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled (I like my garlic)
3 spring onions, chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 lemongrass, chopped into 2 inch pieces and halved (white part only)
250g rice flat noodles
Peanut Satay
250g dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
1 tbsp Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 and a half tbsp palm sugar (or regular if you don’t have this)
1 tbsp of tamarind concentrate (or pulp soaked in 25ml of warm water – you’ll need to squeeze it through a sieve if you do it this way)
pinch of salt
50 ml ground nut oil
200 ml water
for the spice paste you will need:
4 small dried red chillies, deseeded (or more if you want more of a kick)
3 shallots
2 lemongrass (remove the green part)
3 garlic cloves
1 inch fresh galangal (or ginger if you cannot source it)
1. First make the peanut satay sauce. Coarsely grind the peanuts in a blender or food processor (or pestle and mortar) and remove and place to one side.
2. Next place the spice paste ingredients in the food processor and whizz until they are form a smooth as possible paste.
3. If you are using tamarind pulp soak in warm water for 10 minutes and then press through a sieve.
4. Place the oil in a pan and add the spice paste ingredients and let simmer gently for a couple of minutes before adding the crushed peanuts and stirring together.
5. Add half the water, tamarind concentrate (or pulp), kecap manis, palm sugar, salt. Stir in throughly.
6. Place the remaining water, and add even more if necessary, and let similar for a few minutes. Taste test to see if the salt/sugar elements have the right balance. Let cool and place to one side.
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7. Heat a pan with groundnut oil and when the oil begins to bubble add the garlic and lemongrass and let it gently sizzle for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Add two tablespoons of homemade satay sauce to the pan and stir into the garlic and lemongrass.
9. Place the prawns into the pan and cover throughly with the peanut satay. Add another one or two tablespoons as required. After a couple of minutes add the spring onions and after a minute take off the heat.
10. In a separate saucepan boil the rice noodles for the time specified on the packet – will not be longer than 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and add a further tablespoon of satay sauce so that the noodles are also coated in the satay.
11. Transfer the noodles to a large main dish and place the prawns, garlic, lemongrass and spring onions on top and then let guests/family serve themselves.
Please note homemade satay sauce can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks and in the freezer thereafter.
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King Prawn Noodle Broth – effortless joy in a bowl

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Do you ever feel too exhausted to cook in the evenings but want a fresh, healthy, comforting dish that you can prepare in lightening speed with very little effort? I think all of us do from time to time, I certainly did this evening. So I put together this wonderfully flavoursome broth in less than 10 minutes. I feel it cleanses the body and heightens ones senses. It’s definitely my kind of dish.

King Prawn Noodle Broth – Serves 2

190g  Jumbo king prawns (or any prawns will do)

1 bag/ 200g of udon noodles (double the amount if you are feeling hungry)

1 tamarind broth cube (Knorr make them)

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

6 thin slices of fresh ginger

half a red chilli, finely sliced

1 lime

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1/2 tsp of lemongrass paste

2 tsp of light soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp of coriander, chopped

1. Thinly slice the garlic, ginger, red chilli and spring onion. Heat the sesame oil in a pan, and when it is hot, add the chopped ingredients and the lemongrass paste, and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

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2. Meanwhile put 600ml of boiling water in a pan on a low heat and break up the tamarind broth cube into the water. Then add the prawns and watch them reduce in size slightly – this will only take a couple of minutes – be careful not to over cook them!

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3. Place the contents of the pan with the garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and spring onion into the broth along with the udon noodles. Whilst I use udon noodles any type of noodles will work equally well. Experiment and see which you prefer. Cook the noodles for 3 minutes and during this time add the soy sauce and the juice from half a lime.

4. Serve piping hot with chopped coriander on the top with a lime quarter on the side.

If you are feeling under the weather or want a general ‘pick me up’ this warming broth is sure to reinvigorate you. Instead of prawns you could use chicken or for a vegetarian option: broccoli, sugar snap peas, mange tout or pak choi.