Saturday, March 6, 2010
“A rose by any other name is still a rose”. Similarly,Blachan by any other name is still Blachan
The unmistakable smell of blachan still wafts across the house even after I have left the windows opened since last night. It seems impossible to disperse and get rid of the smell from the house, especially in the kitchen, where I prepared the sambal hei bee. To be honest, my wife and I would'nt mind the least except for my son who never understands why I have to use such an ingredient as the blachan in my cooking. It is a popular flavoring and an essential seasoning in the dishes of Southeast Asian countries particularly Malaysia, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia. This pungent, dark-brown dried shrimp paste is known as blachan in Malaysia, terasi in Indonesia, gapi in Thailand, bagoong in the Philippines and balichǎo in Macao. It is made mainly from shrimps that have been allowed to ferment and dry the sun until very pungent and odorous. It's then mashed and in some cases dried. Balachan is available in paste, powder or as hard slabs or cakes form in Asian markets or supermarkets. The Cantonese make a softer shrimp paste known as hump har, which is often used in a steamed pork ribs dish. Blachan varies in flavour and intensity from country to country or even region to region within some countries. There is a marked difference between the East Coast (Kelantan and Trengganu) and West Coast (Penang and Malacca) of Penisular Malaysia, in terms of colour and flavour. Blachan is always cooked to mellow its very pungent aroma and flavour, sometimes it is mixed into a curry paste before frying and other times grilled or fried before being blended into a sauce or paste (sambal).
Sambal Hei Bee (Sambal udang kering)Recipe
1/2 cup dried prawns (udang kering) - soaked in hot water to soften
2 medium sized onions
15 pcs of dried chilies - soaked in hot water
2 tbs of tamarind pulp - soaked in hot water to make the juice
11/2 inch belachan
8pcs kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced (if available)
Salt and sugar
1/4 cup cooking oil
In a traditional pestel and mortar or a food processor process onions, chillies until they are finely pounded or chopped. After soaking the dried prawns, pound them coasely in a mortar. Grill the blachan until slightly burnt. Heat oil in a saucepan or a small wok and saute the spices until the oil separates from the spices. Add in finely pounded udang kering.and add in toasted belachan and mix well into the spices. Pour in the tamarind juice and simmer until the paste thicken. Add sugar and salt to taste Finally add the kaffir leaves if available.