Okra / Ladies Finger with Sambal Belacan

Malaysians are crazy about sambal belacan – a blend of hot red chili and umami fermented shrimp paste. It is then balanced with sugar and something sour such as lime juice or tamarind.

One of the most popular dishes in the Nyonya and Malay community is Okra with Sambal Belacan. It is incredibly easy to make and surprisingly appetising. Be warned though – it will make you eat more rice than usual.

My family normally likes to fry sambal belacan in oil. However, I prefer the convenience and the lighter taste of this recipe which I’ve learned from Pearly, a Nyonya cook in Penang.

If you’re trying to eat more vegetables but hate the bland taste of salad or/and have no time to cook, this recipe might be the solution. Make sambal belacan ahead of time to freeze. When you need some quick vegetables, simply blanch (or even microwave the beans). The sambal dressing can be prepared in just a few minutes.

TOOLS

  • Wok + spatula
  • Stove

RECIPE CARD

Okra With Sambal Belacan

6th March 2018
: 4 - 6
: 10 min
: 5 min
: 15 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 300 g (2 bunch) Okra / ladies fingers

  • SAMBAL BELACAN
  • 8 red chillies, deseeded
  • 15 g belacan, toasted

  • SAMBAL DRESSING
  • Sambal belacan
  • 20 g (2 tbsp) dried prawns, fry until dry
  • 8 shallots, sliced into rings
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp fine granulated sugar
  • Juice from 1 calamansi lime
Directions
  • Step 1 PREP: Soak dried prawns, drain, and chop into small pieces. Peel and slice shallots into rings, then place into a bowl.Toast belacan and put in the blender. Wash, deseed, and cut fresh chillies into the blender.
  • Step 2 BLEND: Process chillies and belacan in an electric blender. Pour into the wok.
  • Step 3 FRY CHILI-BELACAN & SHRIMPS: Add pounded chili-belacan and dried prawns. Fry (without oil) until dry. Dish into the bowl of shallots.
  • Step 4 MAKE DRESSING: Mix shallots, sambal belacan, dried prawns, soy sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Mix well. Taste and adjust to your liking.
  • Step 5 BLANCH OKRA: Boil enough water to submerge okra and add some salt. When water boils, slowly put in okra and remove them when they just turn green, or easily pierced through with a fork (about 30 seconds).
  • Step 6 COLD BATH & SLICE TOP: Remove and put in a pot of cold water to stop the okra from being overcooked. Slice off the unsightly and hard crown of the okra for better presentation.
  • Step 7 SERVE: Pour sambal belacan over okra.

SHORT RECIPE

Blend 8 deseeded red chillies + 15 g toasted belacan to make sambal belacan. Dry roast sambal belacan and 2 tbsp dried prawns. Mix: sambal belacan + dried prawns + 8 sliced shallots + 1 tsp soy sauce + 1/2 tbsp sugar + juice of 1 lime. Blanch 300 g okra. Pour sambal paste over okra.

STEP-BY-STEP

PREP: Soak dried prawns, drain, and chop into small pieces. Peel and slice shallots into rings, then place into a bowl.Toast belacan and put in the blender. Wash, deseed, and cut fresh chillies into the blender.

BLEND: Process chillies and belacan in an electric blender. Pour into the wok.

FRY CHILI-BELACAN & SHRIMPS: Add pounded chili-belacan and dried prawns. Fry (without oil) until dry. Dish into the bowl of shallots. (Note: You will get about 5 – 6 tbsp of sambal belacan.)

MAKE DRESSING: Mix shallots, sambal belacan, dried prawns, soy sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Mix well. Taste and adjust to your liking.

BLANCH OKRA: Boil enough water to submerge okra and add some salt. When water boils, slowly put in okra and remove them when they just turn green, or easily pierced through with a fork (about 30 seconds).

COLD BATH & SLICE TOP: Remove and put in a pot of cold water to stop the okra from being overcooked. Slice off the unsightly and hard crown of the okra for better presentation. Arrange neatly on a plate.

SERVE: Pour sambal belacan over okra.


COOKING TIPS

  1. Replace okra with other beans. You can replace okra with other beans such as long beans or french beans.
  2. To save time, use onions instead of shallots. 8 shallots takes longer time to peel than 1 onion. If you’re short of time, cube onions instead of slicing shallots.
  3. Blanch in salty water to maintain nutrient. If water is not salted, nutrient will leave from high mineral okra to the low mineral water. Many people believe that using less salt is healthier, but not in this case. Another benefit is that okra will be flavoured from the inside out.
  4. Prepare water bath to prevent okra from being overcooked. The heat will continue cooking okra. To stop it from cooking, immediately transfer blanched okra to a basin of cold water.
  5. Use oil if you don’t like it raw. My mother doesn’t like the raw taste of the chili and prefers to cook the sambal in some oil. It’s ok (and some claim to be tastier)
  6. Choose young okra. Old okra is fibrous and hard to chew. How to know if the okra is young? The bottom can easily brick at the bottom.


Enjoy!

1 thought on “Okra / Ladies Finger with Sambal Belacan”

  1. Pingback: Key Lime (Limau Nipis) & Calamansi lime (Limau Kasturi) – New Malaysian Kitchen

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