After being unwell for such a long time, I have almost forgotten how it feels like to be in the pink. I am slowly recovering but I feel very worn-out all the time. It must be from the days that I had eaten little, fearing that if I overloaded my digestive system with heavy food, fever would set in again. I think my body is not getting enough nutrition with all the light meals I had taken for it to get well again. The fasting had not done me any good and I am beginning to have an aversion to all the bland food that I have been taking for the past weeks.
Today I decided to cook something tasty and appetising – sambal petai prawns. It was nasty too considering I should not be eating anything spicy so soon. The petai had been sitting in the fridge for a few days and it would be such a waste to throw them away if it was not cooked soon.
The one drawback with petai is that is stinks up the toilet. Its stench is akin to burning rubber and can be overpowering at times. That is why it is called stink beans by the Chinese. It is believed that if one ate petai with brinjal (eggplant, aubergine), it would cancel out the stench. It is also believed to be beneficial to diabetics and those suffering from kidney problems.
The petai tree can grow up to a height of 30 meters. With its height and brittle branches, plucking the petai can be dangerous. I have heard of people falling to their death while harvesting the pods. Considering the dangers it posed, 50 sen per pod is not that expensive a price to pay.
I am sharing the recipe below. I do not have the exact weight for the tamarind and volume of the water used. Some would prefer it more sour and less sweet, in which case, add more tamarind juice and less sugar. Anyway, cooking to me is not an exact science as different people have different perception in taste.
Sambal Petai and Prawns
Ingredients for pounding:
4 cloves garlic
2cm section turmeric
6 stalks lemon grass, finely sliced
3 red chillies
5 tablespoons tamarind
1/2 small bowl of water
150g prawns, shelled and deveined
petai beans from 6 pods
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small bowl of water
Pound the lemon grass, turmeric, chillies, shallots and garlic until fine. Heat oil and fry the pounded ingredients until fragrant. Mix the tamarind and water, sieve and add together with the bowl of water and let simmer. Add petai beans, sugar and salt. Add prawns when about ready. Remove when the prawns are cooked. Serve with rice.