5:30pm Weeknight Sambal!

Kellie and I celebrated our eighth anniversary (first in marriage) this Tuesday. Life is good, folks. We are happy, thankful people. I owe some overdue library fines, sure, but…Taking a break from our slow cooker repertoire – from which I will be posting select recipes shortly – we opted to prepare something fresh, relatively quick, and immediately satisfying. Kel asked for bang-bang shrimp, a variation on bang-bang chicken, which I haven’t prepared since we moved to Nebraska (for one, as the name suggests, tenderizing the chicken breast is a performance unto itself; also, as a rule, I don’t prepare meat all that often unless we have company over.)

My literalist mind would not permit me to accept the possibility of bang-bang shrimp; hammer plus soft-bodied crustacean just wouldn’t compute. Woe, the trappings of this cuisine concrète I’ve imposed upon myself.

Nevertheless, shrimp was procured. I gathered supporting materials – scallions, seven cents of organic Thai green chilis (that’s three chilis, surely a delight in the checkout line at Whole Foods,) basil, two heads of garlic, a shallot, a bottle of dry sherry, collected wife and son, got home and sharpened my chopping blade – by 5:30 Tuesday evening, I had everything in the pan and over coils.

photo (21)
Before the shrimp.

Last month, I posted a recipe for la jiao jiang (辣椒酱) – homemade hot chili paste. I had something else in mind, though. With half a bottle of common red curry paste in the fridge, some limes and a knob of ginger knocking around in the pantry, I started throwing things together as I went and came up with a decent impromptu sambal dadak.

Here’s the recipe followed by evidence and few links below the fold, if you’re in the market for a homemade sambal of your own.

5:30pm Weeknight Sambal

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes


  • 3 or 4 small Thai chili peppers
  • 2 heads of garlic, diced however you please
  • 1 shallot, minced finely
  • 1 liberal tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, stirred in at high heat
  • 2-4 ounces of Thai red curry paste (we had some of this stuff left over from a previous effort)
  • 1 splash soy sauce
  • 2-3 splashes of sherry, at high heat
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 green onion, minced finely; have another ready to serve atop the dish as garnish
  • 1/2 lime, juices squeezed in to taste
  • 1 handful of roasted cashews, which I forgot to add
  • 4 leaves of fresh green basil for presentation

Thaw a pound of shrimp. Toss them in the pan once the sambal is fragrant and simmering, cook until tender. Remove from heat; set sambal aside.

I cooked about a cup of basmati rice while making the sambal; without an ice-cream scoop, I used a small ladle and my hand to create the four handsome mounds of rice pictured below. Quarter one lemon and one lime, and display accordingly. Place the basil leaves opposite the citrus wedges, sprinkle some minced green onions on top, and finish with a quick drizzle of soy sauce.

Done and done. Anniversary dinner was a success!

Happy anniversary, my love!

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