Do you know what these are? Yes, the ever glorious sambal belacan and salted fish!
I admit that I do not represent the whole Malay population in this country but I am sure that many Malays are very fond of their ‘sambal belacan’. It is actually an accompaniment made up of pounded red chillies, a shallot or two, toasted shrimp paste, salt and sugar. From this basic recipe, you can simply add raw mango or chopped, ripe tomatoes for a sourish taste or simply squeeze some lime juice to make it more appetizing. It is an unwritten rule that if you have already prepared your sambal belacan, you MUST have fried salted fish to go along with it.
Talking about pairing, I begin to realize that whenever Mak prepares her Kobis or Labu Masak Lemak Putih (Cabbage or Pumpkin in White Coconut Gravy), she would also prepare her sambal belacan and salted fish. Only after these years have I finally understood how brilliant were the womenfolk of the yesteryears. In the kampung, dishes are prepared using sources around the household perimetre, where vegetable dishes are more common. When you have to cook for everyone (with various likings) in the house, you can’t afford but to be creative. In the case of Kobis or Labu Masak Lemak Putih, those who fancy spicy food, can simply add the sambal belacan into their meal for that extra zing. What an ingenious idea!
As for me, since I still have my sambal belacan and salted fish, I decided to prepare this dish, using another Chef Wan’s recipe.
‘LABU MASAK LEMAK PUTIH’
- 300g pumpkin (peeled and chopped into large chunks)
- 200g of prawns (peeled)
- 3 shallots
- 2 pips of garlic
- 2 tablespoonfuls of dried shrimps
- 500ml of coconut milk (from 1 grated coconut)
- 1 red chilli (deseeded and cut lengthwise)
- salt and sugar to taste
- In a pot, put all ingredients except turmeric leaf , chilli and prawns and let to boil till the pumpkin chunks are soft. Stir continuously or your coconut milk will split.
- Next, put in the remaining ingredients and stir till the prawns are cooked.
- Add salt and sugar to taste.
- Serve hot with your sambal belacan and salted fish.