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Tamarind prawns- How to make Malaysian-style Assam Prawns

Do you like to eat prawns? How was it cooked the last time you ate prawns?  I have something different to show you today—tamarind prawns.

Tamarind prawns (Asam prawns or Assam prawns as in Malay) are one of the famous Nyonya recipes in Malaysia.

The prawns are fried until the sugar is caramelized, mixed with a sauce comprised of tamarind juice and sugar flavored with kafir lime leaves. As a result, the flavor is slightly sour, sweet, and savory, with every bit of flavor coming together harmoniously.

You only need a few simple ingredients to make this dish.

In this article, I will show you how to prepare the famous Nyonya dish, Asam prawn.

Prepare tamarind prawns (Assam prawns), a classic sweet and sour Nyonya recipe made with fresh tamarind pulp.

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How to prepare Asam prawns

Tamarind prawns is a simple recipe. It only involves a few ingredients. No frill, quick and easy, but it is incredibly delicious.

1. Prepare and clean the prawns

  1. Prepare 500 grams of fresh prawn.
  2. Remove the head and part of the shell.
  3. Open the back of the prawn by using a pair of kitchen scissors, then deveined.
  4. Clean the prawns thoroughly with water and then drain in a colander.
  5. Some cook prefers to retrim away only part of the head, And keep the shell on for better presentation. However, I like to remove shells, heads, and legs as it is more convenient to eat.

Note:

Do not discard the prawn shells and heads. Instead, keep the prawn heads and shells to make prawn broth for Penang prawn noodles.

2. Marinate the prawns

Make the tamarind juice

  1. The main ingredient for this dish is tamarind, which is widely used in Nyonya cooking. 
  2. It is best to use fresh tamarind pulp to prepare the tamarind extract. First, soak 50 grams of tamarind pulp in 50ml of warm water in a small bowl, mix it thoroughly, and leave it aside for 10 minutes. Then, pour the tamarind pulp through a wire mesh strainer to remove the seeds and the tamarind pulps. Keep the tamarind pulp. The extract is to be used to marinate the prawns.
  3. If the fresh tamarind pulp is unavailable, you can use the store-bought tamarind paste as the substitute.

Marinate for 30 minutes

  1. Marinate prawns with tamarind extract, sugar, salt, light soy sauce, ground white pepper, and dark soy sauce. Marinade the prawns with these ingredients for 30 minutes.
Prepare tamarind prawns (Assam prawns), a classic sweet and sour Nyonya recipe made with fresh tamarind pulp.

3. Pan-fry the prawns

  1. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan.
  2. Remove the marinade as much as possible from the prawns.
  3. When the oil is heated to medium, place the prawns into a single layer, pan-fried until both sides turn golden brown and sugar caramelized.
  4. Remove the pan-fried prawns from the pan and set them aside.

4. Make the gravy and stir-fry the prawns

  1. Clean the pan and add oil to saute a teaspoon of chopped garlic and kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Pour the remaining marinade liquid into the pan when the garlic turns aromatic. At the same time, Pick up all the seeds from the tamarind pulp. Then, add part of the tamarind pulp to the prawn to enhance the flavor. However, you may not need to use all the tamarind pulp as the flavor may be too strong.
  3. Reduce the liquid until it turns into a thick gravy.
  4. Do a taste test if you need to adjust the flavor.
  5. Return the prawns to the pan and mix thoroughly with the gravy.
  6. Lastly, drizzle some sesame oil on the prawn.
  7. Dish out and serve.

The asam prawn is best served with nasi lemak as the main dish for dinner. It is a quick and delicious way to prepare prawns when you are short of time.

Prepare tamarind prawns (Assam prawns), a classic sweet and sour Nyonya recipe made with fresh tamarind pulp.

Other shrimp recipes

If you like this prawn dish, here is my pick of other similar prawn recipes on this blog.

  • If you like salted eggs, try this salted egg prawns recipe. It is uniquely Asian and quite different from any other recipes you might have encountered.
  • Kun Pao shrimp is a Traditional recipe from the Sichuan province. It is spicy, savory, and has a numbing feeling on the tongue Due to the Sichuan peppercorns.
  • Follow this recipe to make shrimp dumplings that taste as good as those in the dim sum restaurant.
Yield: 3 servings

Assam prawns ( Malaysian-style Tamarind Prawns )

tamarind prawns square

Prepare tamarind prawns (Assam prawns), a classic sweet and sour Nyonya recipe made with fresh tamarind pulp.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients A (marinate the prawns)

  • 500g prawn
  • 50g asam Jawa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Ingredients B (others)

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Instructions

Marinate the prawn

  1. Remove the head and part of the shell of the prawns. Clean and deveined. Drain in a colander.
  2. Soak the tamarind pulp in 50ml of warm water in a small bowl for 10 minutes. Remove the seeds and the tamarind pulps. Keep the tamarind pulp. 
  3. Marinate prawns with tamarind extract, sugar, salt, light soy sauce, ground white pepper, and dark soy sauce for 30 minutes.

Pan-fry the prawns

  1. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan.
  2. Remove the marinade as much as possible from the prawns.
  3. When the oil is heated to medium, place the prawns into a single layer, pan-fried until both sides turn golden brown and sugar caramelized.

Make the sauce

  1. Saute a teaspoon of chopped garlic and kaffir lime leaves with oil.
  2. Pour the remaining marinade liquid into the pan when the garlic turns aromatic. Add the tamarind pulp, then reduce the liquid until it into a thick gravy.
  3. Return the prawns to the pan and mix thoroughly with the gravy.
  4. Lastly, drizzle some sesame oil on the prawn. Serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 331Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 352mgSodium: 2112mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 39g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 19/9/2022

Gianne Birdinc

Tuesday 20th of September 2022

Hi KP Kwan, Firstly, I Love your recipes as they are so authentic! Usually, I have to find 3 of the best recipes for a dish and then use as a base to come up with my own ‘ best’ version. With your recipes I don’t have to as they ARE already perfect! My question is for the Singapore noodles recipe. If I am not using Tamarind pulp how much tamarind paste should I use to substitute? Many thanks! Gianne

KP Kwan

Thursday 29th of September 2022

You can use one tablespoon of pulp to one tablespoon of paste.

KP Kwan

Monday 19th of September 2022

Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am glad to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

Kris

Monday 19th of September 2022

@KP Kwan, I will try your recipe and will let you know.

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