Barrington Salter, who started the French Café in Auckland many years ago, cooked this sambal for Food Editor Claire Aldous many times. Fortunately he also gave her the recipe.
24 raw green prawns, shelled with tail on
500 grams hapuka fillets, or other firm fleshed fish
2 teaspoons blachan – purple shrimp paste
seasoned flour for dusting fish
4 tablespoons clarified butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon sugar
350 ml coconut cream
1 stalk lemongrass, tender inner part only, very finely chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
Cut the prawns down the back to butterfly and pull out the black vein. Cut the fish into large pieces.
Wrap the blachan in tin foil and dry fry in a sauté pan for 4-5 minutes. This mellows the flavour but does omit a strong odour while cooking!
Heat 3 tablespoons of clarified butter in a large sauté pan, dust the fish with flour and quickly sear on both sides. Do not allow the flour to burn. The fish should still be slightly raw in the middle. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining butter to the same pan and cook the onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Crumble the shrimp paste with a fork and add to the pan along with the sambal oelek and lemongrass and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the soy, white wine and the sugar and bring to the boil. Add the coconut cream and half the coriander and simmer the mixture for a few minutes to develop the flavours. Add the prawns and the fish and simmer again until both are just cooked. Stir in the remaining coriander and add enough lime juice and fish sauce to give a balance of flavours.
Serve with hot cooked rice and sautéed Asian greens.
Sambal Oelek: This is a simple chilli paste made from chilli, vinegar and salt. It is readily available at supermarkets and Asian food stores.
Blachan: (also balachan) is a pungent paste made from dried and fermented shrimp, sardines and other small fish, which is salted, mashed and formed into cakes. It is used to flavour many dishes in South East Asia and is readily available at Asian supermarkets.