Saeng Wa of Grilled Prawns (Thai)
This is the most surprising, delicious thing I've ever eaten. The recipe source is David Thompson, but as written, it is very difficult to source, even in 2016. I'll expand the instructions a little, and suggest easier-to-source ingredients that make a close (and delicious) version accessible to anyone.
Thompson describes it as a perfect example of Thai Palace Cuisine: exquisitely prepared tiny plates.
(Just an aside, but humans have been writing recipes for thousands of years. Is it still really necessary to write "Ingredients" before listing the ingredients? And then "Instructions" before giving the instructions? Is that not a bit like writing "Wall" on every wall?)
1 tbs lime juice
1 tbs mandarin juice
A little Kaffir lime juice
A little palm sugar
1 tbs fish sauce
2 scuds (hellishly hot green chillies)
2 large Yamba prawns, grilled in their shells, then peeled and shredded
2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only, VERY finely chopped.
2 tbs ginger julienne
1 green or red chilli, julienned
2 red shallots, sliced
Mint and Coriander leaves
Make the sauce by pounding the scuds in a mortar then mixing in the other sauce ingredients. The taste should be hot, sour and salty. Combine all ingredients.
It is important to chop everything small enough so that every mouthful contains everything. Here's David Thompson again:
"If you’ve ever tried to eat even very fine slices of raw lemongrass or ginger, it doesn’t seem like this would work at all. For some reason, when all the ingredients are combined, they become perfectly edible, their texture and flavor balancing out the dressed shrimps perfectly. The amount of shredding and the uncommon ingredients in this recipe suggest that it was originally royal food.”
So here's how to make it accessible: Kaffir lime juice? It tastes utterly bizarre, and you basically need your own Kaffir lime tree to get some. So of course I got my own Kaffir lime tree. The juice is incredibly soapy, and its main use is indeed as a shampoo. This is the only recipe I've ever seen it in. The rind is thick and lumpy, impossible to replicate, but you can get fairly close using lime and Meyer lemon juice and zest.
Palm sugar? Light brown sugar. Fish sauce? You need a really good one like Red Boat
for this dish, but in the meantime try it with any fish sauce.
Utterly key is grilling the shrimp in their shells, and if you throw those crispy shells away after peeling them, you are not a serious cook.
There's far to much chest-pounding about how HOT Thai dishes should be, but this one really needs to push your envelope. Scuds? I'm guessing Thai bird chilies. As written, it's insanely hot, but if you de-seed the chilies and remove all the white pith, you might only need one or two Singha