Thursday, March 23, 2006

Prawns Singapore Style in Chilli Bean Sauce

Prawns can mean a number of things to a number of people. I was kind of surprised when Mrs. Yi brought some home. We'd never prepared prawns. As far as we were concerned, they were huge shrimp, a dozen or fewer to the pound. I guess Mrs. Yi was ready for a change. Little tiny shrimp had heretofore been our forte. Until last year our own private shrimper, namely her Dad, had provided us with an unlimited supply, fresh frozen by the pound inside blocks of ice. Every time Mrs. Yi flew down for a visit, she'd take along an extra suitcase to be lined with newspapers for hauling up a new thirty pound load. It was the next best thing to having live shrimp. The prawns that Mrs. Yi brought home today had just begun to thaw when she found them at the supermarket. Needless to say they weren't thawing out of the middle of ice blocks, but they would work. We had to come up with a recipe fast, which is something I'm good at. Soon I found one from Singapore that read like a winner if only we could come up with that one tablespoon of canned salted black beans. Mrs. Yi surprised me. She went into our "Asian" drawer and pulled out a big jar of what I thought were raisins. They turned out to be just the kind of black beans we needed. I don't know where they could have come from or when we had ever used them before. The recipe that follows is kind of a classic for Singapore, and taken from a cookbook old enough to refer to bell peppers as "capsicums." Once the very minor prep work is done, you can throw this dish together in just a few minutes.


12 large raw prawns
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Chinese wine or dry sherry
1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
1 green capsicum (bell pepper)
1 tablespoon canned salted black beans
1-2 teaspoons Chinese chilli sauce
2 teaspoons hoi sin sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
spring onion brushes and chilli flowers to garnish

Shell and de-vein prawns, then put in a bowl and mix in garlic crushed with the salt. Add ginger and wine and leave to marinate while preparing other ingredients. Cut capsicums in small squares. Rinse black beans and drain, then crush or chop finely and mix with chilli sauce and hoi sin sauce. Pour oil into a heated wok, stir fry capsicums for 2 minutes, then remove them to the side of the wok and add prawns to the oil Fry over high heat unitl they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Move prawns to one side and add a little more oil, about half a tablespoon. Add black bean and sauce mixture to oil and stir over heat for 30 seconds, then mix the prawns and capsicum into the sauce and fry for a few seconds until coated with the black bean mixture. Garnish and serve at once. Serves 2-3
From The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon McGraw-Hill Book Co.