Chili Prawns

Photo by Jun Pang

I love dried chilies.  Whether I use them whole to flavour a dish or made into a sambal, dried chilies are so under used.

Large dried chilies have that really earthy, chocolaty flavour to them and when tempered in oil, those flavours just intensifies.  Unlike chili flakes which are little more intense in “chili” heat, large whole red chilies are a little more subtle.  When you make this type of sambal, you get a really sweet sambal, smooth in flavour with no real, back of the throat chili heat, in fact for those who don’t really eat a lot of chilies, this the best sambal to start on.

Make a heap of it and freeze it, it keeps well in the freezer.  You can use it pretty well in every thing.  The best way to use it is to oil eggplants then grill them on a really hot grill, cut deep slits into the eggplant then spread this sambal lavishly on top and in the slits and roast at high temp oven until soft, you will love this little creation, especially if your a vego!

If you don’t like seafood replace it with grilled eggplant and zucchini, it is just as bloody good, in fact, I think at times, it’s really hard to decide between the both and I love seafood.  Serve both versions with steamed Jasmine rice.

Photo by Jun Pang

Chili Prawns and Calamari

Serves 4


1Kg King Prawns – Cooked – peeled, leave heads on

500gr Squid – cleaned, cut into 1cm strips

½ Cup Wole Dried Medium Red Chilies

½ Brown Onion – finely sliced

1 Fresh Red Chili – finely sliced

½ Bunch Spring Onion – white finely sliced

4 cloves Garlice – finely sliced

1 Thumb of Ginger – peeled and finely grated on microplane

4 Tblspn Chili Sambal – follow recipe

¼ Cup Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

1.4 Cup Water

For the Chili Sambal

1 liter Vegetable Oil

5 Brown Onions – peeled, cut into 2cm cubes roughly

500gr Garlic –  peeled

5 Cups Dried Red Chili

11/2 Cups Palm Sugar Powder

¾ Cup Vegetarian Oyster Sauce


For the Spring onion Curls

½ Bunch Spring Onion Greens – finely sliced lengthways, in ice water


For the Sambal

  1. Using a small wok, add the oil, onion and garlic and turn the wok on medium high heat from cold
  2. Cook the onions and garlic until slightly brown and soft, about 10 minutes, continually stirring
  3. Scoop the onion and garlic out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place in deep, narrow container like a milk shake cup (metal because it is hot)
  4. Add the dried chili in the hot oil and cook until it changes to a dark, chocolaty colour
  5. Drain with a slotted spoon and add to the garlic and onion.
  6. Blitz until puree with a hand blender of blender, adding a little of the oil you cooked with in the container for moisture until it’s a smooth puree
  7. Add oyster sauce and palm sugar and blitz to mix through.  Set aside

For the Chili Prawns and Calamari

  1. Clean the wok and heat on high heat
  2. Add about 2 table spoons of the oil you used for the Sambal and add the calamari.  Cook until sealed and slightly browned and set aside.  Heat up the wok again and a little more of the Sambal oil
  3. Add the dried chili and cook until chocolate colour
  4. Add the onions and sauté until soft
  5. Add the chili and spring onions and sauté for one minute
  6. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a further two minutes
  7. Add the sambal and toss through
  8. Add the oyster sauce and stir through followed by the water and allow to simmer for about 30 seconds
  9. Add the prawns and sealed calamari and toss through until well coated and cook for 2-3 minutes
  10. Serve and garnish with spring onion curls

Photo by Jun Pang

Sambal – there are many versions of sambal, depending on which country you are in but generally it is a side dish or condiment made from pureed chilies.  Very popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and especially India

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce – used in Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese cooking oyster sauce is made from intense, cooked oysters, water and sugar thickened with corn starch and some with a caramel added to it.  Vegetarian oyster sauce is made with mushroom extract usually shitake mushrooms replacing oysters.  Very similar in flavour and perfect substitute for oyster sauce.

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