15 September 2014

Rempah Udang

Since getting home from our two month escapade, I've been cooking far more often than when I had a regular job - double the joy there. It is truly blissful to feel inspired to cook fish head curry simply after seeing a really handsome piece of fish head, AND have the luxury of time to do it that very day. Or to be able to take all afternoon making prawn mee even though a good bowl is just a few minutes away. 

Since I left my job, many have asked me how I have been occupying myself. I suppose this curiosity is natural, since I used to spend a good 50 - 60 hours a week at work. The best part of having all that time is that I now have the time and energy to reconnect with old friends, and deepen relationships with people who matter. How better to start than with my own family. 

One of the items on my to-do list, crafted when I was still in Australia, was to finally attempt Rempah Udang. Spending an entire afternoon doing that with my mother was exactly how I envisioned my first foray into Rempah Udang to go. 

Using my trusty go-to Peranakan cookbook by Philip Chia, we mixed, chopped, pounded, steamed, fried, and rolled our way to many irregularly shaped and sized banana leaf parcels of glutinous rice and dried shrimp deliciousness. It was also a great learning process for my mum and I as we got better with each new parcel we created. We found it a real challenge to ensure there was just the right amount of glutinous rice (read: not too much)  and dried shrimp (read: as much as possible), while still ensuring the shrimp was fully encased in the glutinous rice. We might need a few more rounds to nail this, but it was certainly good enough to give away to friends and family. But the best part of it all really, was spending all afternoon in the kitchen with my mum, the way we used to do when I was just a wee girl helping her prepare the Saturday dinner. 

Rempah Udang
Makes about 30 parcels
(Recipe from Peranakan Heritage Cooking, comments in italics mine)

Banana leaves as needed 
(I bought $1 worth and it was more than enough)
Dried bunga telang
(These are flowers to dye the glutinous rice blue, but they are more for its aesthetic value. I omitted them since they are quite difficult, but not impossible, to find.)
Water as needed
600g white glutinous rice, soaked for 4 hours
250ml coconut milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt
60 bamboo cocktail sticks

200g dried shrimp, rinsed and drained
4cm bulbous end of lemongrass
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
200g shallots, peeled
2cm knob of tumeric, peeled (or 1 tsp ground tumeric)
2 tablespoon cooking oil
2-3 tablespoons dried chilli paste (see recipe below)
100g grated skinned coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar


Wipe banana leaves clean, scald in hot water or over an open flame to soften the leaves and prevent them from tearing when folded. Cut to obtain about 30 square sheets, each at least 9cm x 9cm. (You may want to cut them only when you are rolling them, so that you can adjust the size of each sheet to your preference.)

Place dried bunga telang in a bowl with 100ml of water. Leave to soak for about 15 minutes or longer if you want a deeper blue. Strain to obtain water for colouring. 

Rinse and strain the glutinous rice. Place on a steaming tray. Mix coconut milk with 50ml of water and salt. (The recipe called for 100ml of water, but the glutinous rice was more stodgy than I would have liked it.) Pour over glutinous rice. Using a teaspoon, drop spoonfuls of blue colouring randomly on rice to colour it in patches.

Steam rice for about 45 minutes or until rice is tender and cooked. Set aside to cool. While rice is cooling, prepare filling.

Heat a wok and dry-fry dried shrimp until fragrant. Leave to cool, then grind until fine using a mortar and pestle or blender. 

Using a mortar and pestle or blender, grind lemongrass, garlic, shallots and tumeric into a paste. (For all my pounding needs, the Ultrapride does a fine job.)

Heat oil in a wok and add ground mixture and dried chilli paste. Stir-fry until fragrant. Add ground dried shrimp and grated coconut. Stir-fry until golden brown. Add salt and sugar.

To make parcels, spoon 2 tablespoons of cooked glutinous rice on a banana leaf square and press it down lightly. Spoon enough filling in a line along the middle of the rice, then roll banana leaf up neatly to get a cylindrical parcel. Secure open ends with cocktail sticks. Repeat until ingredients are used up. 

Grill parcels for 1-2 minutes or until leaves are lightly browned just before serving.

(For chilli paste: soak dried chillies in hot water for 30-45 minutes, drain well and grind finely into a paste.)

1 comment:

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