Purists would insist on charcoal-roasting the belacan, hand pounding chillies and garlic in a mortar, and slow-frying the kerisik (the coconut-based garnish that’s spiked with dried shrimp and galangal) over a flame. In Penang they’d use calamansi lime juice too and some chopped torch ginger flower as a finishing touch, but these ingredients are hard to get. Despite the modifications here, this dish is still insanely good.
This is a simplified version of a heritage Nonya dish from Penang.
- 80 g (⅓ cup) dried prawns, soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes then drained well
- 1 ½ tbsp chopped galangal
- 35 g (⅓ cup) grated fresh or thawed frozen coconut
- 250 g dried rice vermicelli
- 600 g cooked medium kind or tiger prawns, peeled and cleaned
- 6 pink shallots (about 150 g), peeled and very thinly sliced or ½ red onion, very finely sliced
- large handful mint leaves, torn
- handful coriander, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp belacan
- 8 medium red chillies, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 125 ml (½ cup) lime juice
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the dressing, heat a small, heavy-based frying pan over medium-low. Wrap the belacan in foil then dry-roast for 2 minutes on each side or until fragrant. Cool slightly then combine in a food processor or a mortar with the chillies and garlic then process or pound with a pestle until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients and 2 tbsp of water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Using kitchen paper, dry the drained dried shrimp well then transfer to a food processor with the galangal and coconut. Process until finely chopped then combine in a small frying pan with an ovenproof handle, or a baking dish, and roast for 15 minutes or until the coconut is deep golden. Cool.
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Cook the rice vermicelli in boiling water for 7-8 minutes or until softened, or according to packet directions. Drain well, place in the cold water to cool then drain again. Cut the prawns in half lengthways. Place in a large bowl with the coconut mixture, the drained noodles, shallots and the dressing. Add most of the herbs, reserving some for garnish then toss to mix well.
Transfer to a serving platter, scatter over remaining herbs and serve.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.