Singapore – Sambal Hae Bee

Spore - 001 Sambal Hae Bee edited re-sized

Dried prawns (Hae Bee in Hokkien dialect) are fresh prawns which have been shelled and dried under the hot sun till they are reduced to thumb nail-size. Their flavour is thus highly concentrated and they add their own special umami flavour to any dish.

Sambal Hae Bee can be a dish in itself, served with hot steamed rice or rice porridge. Most like it as a sandwich filling between two slices of buttered white bread (only white bread so that nothing distracts your taste buds from the deep rich flavour of this sambal). Many local bakeries sell buns filled with sambal hae bee.

Why not use Sambal Hae Bee as a topping over blanched ladies fingers? Click here for my earlier post.  It is a delicious topping over steamed chee cheong fun for breakfast. It can also be made into a relish with Belimbing to be eaten as a side dish with fried fish. A very quick way to prepare Sambal Kang Kong is to use Sambal Hae Bee instead of preparing the rempah. I would love my readers to share with me new ways to serve this dish.

The recipe which is given below can be easily doubled or tripled as it keeps well refrigerated and its uses are plenty.

Some comments about the Ingredients

Dried Prawns. The colour and smell tells you how fresh it is. Although dried prawns are pungent, they smell like the sea when they are fresh. They come in different sizes as well. Most of them originate from Indonesia or Vietnam.

Serai (Lemon grass) and limau purut (lime leaf) are local herbs which are sold not only in the wet markets, but at supermarkets too. My readers who live in outside of SE Asian countries will find them for sale at Asian groceries, especially those who carry Thai ingredients.

Singapore Curry Ingredients De-Mystified (Click here) This post helps explain the common spices, herbs and other ingredients in our local cuisine and what may be suitable substitutes.

Preparation of Ingredients

STEP 1. Dried prawns should be given a quick rinse first and placed in a small bowl. Cover them with just enough hot water to soak for 10 mins and no longer otherwise their flavour will be bleached away.

An old fashioned granite mortar and pestle will do the trick of “mincing” the soaked prawns. In the photo below, you will see a comparison of the result of different methods for “mincing” the soaked prawns. The mortar and pestle works best for me and my helper.

STEP 2. Wash all the herbs and chillies, peeled garlic and shallots. Slice them as shown in the photos above and below.

Hints: The herbs will also have to be thinly sliced. Keep in mind that we use only the white section of the lemon grass for this dish.

STEP 3. Make the tamarind liquid by adding water to the lump of tamarind. Use your clean fingers to knead them together to extract as much tamarind as possible from the seeds. Strain using a sieve to remove seeds.

Cooking Dish

This dish is cooked in 2 stages. SECTION 1 relates to frying the aromatics whilst SECTION 2 relates to frying the pounded fried shrimp with the remaining ingredients and then combining both at the end.

SECTION 1. This relates to frying the aromatics by adding them at different stages into the wok.

STEP 1. Heat wok over medium high for a minute, then add 3 Tbsp cooking oil. A minute later, add sliced shallots and fry till it is soft, add the sliced garlic next. Fry for about 2 mins. Sliced lemon grass is added next. Continue stirring and watching your heat level.

STEP 2. Continue frying till the shallots turn light brown. Using the metal spatula, push the aromatics to the side of wok to allow the oil to drip into wok. Scoop out the aromatics into a plate and set aside.

SECTION 2 This relates to frying the pounded fried shrimp with the remaining ingredients till you get a fragrant mixture.

STEP 1. Mix the ground turmeric and roasted blachan with a tablespoon of water.

STEP 2. Add another tablespoon of cooking oil into the fragrant oil that had been left in the wok. Lower heat and add the liquid turmeric and blachan. Stir quickly to prevent burning. Add the pounded dried prawns, stir well and raise heat. Continue frying for  about 5 mins.

STEP 3. Add in the tamarind paste, salt and sugar and continue to fry. You may find the there are small clumps in your mixture. Just continue stirring and this will loosen clumps and dried prawns will slowly turn a darker colour.  Caution: watch your heat, adjust as needed to prevent burning.

STEP 4. Add in the finely sliced limau purut and mix. Then add all the fried aromatics and keep stirring over lowered heat till everything well mixed and the aroma sends hunger pangs! Remove all into a tray for quick cooling and then bottle Sambal Hae Bee for immediate and future use.

Sambal Belimbing with Hae Bee

My belimbing tree was groaning under the weight of its fruits and we had a good harvest. No better time to make sambal belimbing!

Method: I left one third of my prepared Sambal Hae Bee in the wok. Heat wok on medium heat, add the top and tailed belimbing and 1.5 tablespoon of fine granulated sugar. Cook them for about 10 minutes or till the belimbing softens, stirring well. Voila! You now have a relish to be eaten with steamed rice and fried fish or whatever else suits your fancy.

RECIPE

Source: Mrs Lee’s Cookbook (new)

Ingredients

  • 300 gm dried prawns (Wash, soak and pound as described above)
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of tamarind paste mixed with 6 Tbsp of water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Aromatics (for frying)

  • 6 cloves garlic, peel and slice
  • 10 shallots, peel and slice
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, slice only the white part
  • 2 red chillies, sliced
  • 2 green chillies, sliced

Rempah (mix with 1 Tbsp water)

  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp roasted blachan

Method:

1. Wash and prepare ingredients as described both in photos and comments.

2. Frying the aromatics.

(a). Heat wok over medium high for a minute, then add 3 Tbsp cooking oil. A minute later, add sliced shallots and fry till it is soft, add the sliced garlic next. Fry for about 2 mins. Sliced lemon grass is added next. Continue stirring and watching your heat level.

(b) Continue frying till the shallots turn light brown. Using the metal spatula, push the aromatics to the side of wok to allow the oil to drip into wok. Scoop out the aromatics into a plate and set aside.

3. Frying the pounded prawns with other ingredients.

(a)  Add another tablespoon of cooking oil into the fragrant oil that had been left in the wok. Lower heat and add the liquid turmeric and blachan. Stir quickly to prevent burning. Add the pounded dried prawns, stir well and raise heat. Continue frying for  about 5 mins.

(b) Add in the tamarind paste, salt and sugar and continue to fry. You may find the there are small clumps in your mixture. Just continue stirring and this will loosen clumps and dried prawns will slowly turn a darker colour.  Caution: watch your heat, adjust as needed to prevent burning.

(c) Add in the finely sliced limau purut and mix. Then add all the fried aromatics and keep stirring over lowered heat till everything well mixed and the aroma sends hunger pangs! Remove all into a tray for quick cooling and then bottle Sambal Hae Bee for immediate and future use.

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