What does the top shelf of your fridge look like?
Mine is filled with an array of different pastes and condiments – hoisin sauce, fine shrimp sauce, soy bean paste, ground bean paste, sweet bean paste, chu hou paste, Korean hot bean paste, pickled ground chilli and also containers filled with dried scallops and dried shrimp.
This makes home cooking easy as I always have readily at hand a variety of condiments to create flavoursome dishes.
Most may be familiar with shrimp paste/belacan which is often used in Thai cooking, especially in curries. Belacan comes in a dehydrated, compressed solid brown coloured block. Fine shrimp sauce is different from shrimp paste but created through a similar process by grinding salted, fermented, dried shrimp. Shrimp sauce is purplish/grey in colour and has a thick liquid consistency like yoghurt. As you can imagine shrimp sauce is a little milder than shrimp paste and therefore great for using in a stir fry. A warning for people who have not had shrimp sauce before is that it has an overpowering smell (think durian, blue cheese or anchovies) and a strong salty taste but only a small amount needs to be added to a dish to give it a unique dimension of flavour, providing rich salty and savoury undertones.
My first exposure to shrimp sauce was putting a dollop of it in the bún riêu (Vietnamese pork, crab rice vermicelli soup) that my mum makes. My bowl of bun rieu would not be complete without it as it would deepen the overall flavours of the dish. Shrimp sauce is often used blended into foods and as a dipping sauce – mix it with a little lime and sugar and dip in some ripe green mangoes or tart apples (can you imagine dipping fruit into stinking fish?).
I also love having a jar of pickled ground chilli in my fridge, it’s great to add to a dressing or a stir fry for a hit of spiciness.
I have been waiting for spring to come so I can get my hands on some broad beans.
(Broad beans from the Mondo Markets)
This is the first time that I have used broad beans in cooking. I used broad beans to cook a dish which includes prawns and is flavoured with pungent fine shrimp sauce, fish sauce, pickled ground chilli and finished off with a squeeze of lemon. When my dad cooks this dish he just uses stringless beans but I thought that a mixture of broad beans and stringless beans would be nice as I love the buttery and nutty flavour of broad beans. It’s a light dish but has strong flavours.
• ~200-250g beans (mix of stringless beans chopped into 2-3cm lengths and shelled broad beans)
• 10-12 prawns shelled, deveined and chopped into small pieces
• 2 shallots thinly sliced
• 2 crushed garlic cloves
• salt and pepper
• ~ ½ lemon
• 2-3 tablespoons water
• ½ tablespoon fish sauce
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon fine shrimp sauce
• 1 teaspoon pickled ground chilli
There is a bit of labour involved in getting broad beans ready for consumption but it’s worth it. You have to take the beans out of the pod and then remove the outer layer of skin - use a small knife or your nail to split open the outer skin and remove the individual bean, now repeat for each bean.
Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok over medium heat, add in the pieces of prawns and stir fry until the prawns just change colour. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Heat a little more oil in the wok, add in the shallots and stir fry until browned. Then add in the crushed garlic and the stringless beans, and fry for 1 minute, then add in the sauce mixture and fry for a further 1-2 minutes.
Add in the prawns, season with a little salt and pepper and stir fry all together until the prawns are cooked through and the sauce is nearly dry. Then add in the broad beans and fry for about 20-30 seconds, the broad beans just need to be warmed through.
Turn off the heat, squeeze ½ a lemon over the top and toss through.
Serve with steamed rice.
Check out my other spring recipe: