When the temperature drops, I like to keep myself warm by cooking food with pangs of chilli kicks. Of course, spicy food does not just limit itself to cold autumnal days, even when the temperature soars, I will still often be seen adding chillies to spice up my cooking. But on days like these, when the sky looks grey and dull and everyone seems to be retreating to their warming stew and slow braising cooking, a bit of chillies are most certainly a welcome addition to jazz up any meal.
A spicy Sambal definitely fit the bill for providing that much needed heat. This traditional robust sauce is the cornerstone of much Nyonya cuisine and for a bit of kick, there's nothing more satisfying than to sauté simple ingredients in this rich, hot sauce.
Continuing with my current obsession with eggs and slowly recreating fantastic dishes that let this humble ingredient be in the limelight for once. This Nyonya Sambal eggs or Sambal Telur as it is better known is another fine example. Not quite contended with just making the basic version, I have slightly upped the 'wow' factor to this by taking inspiration from a Hakka classic, Yong Tau Foo (beancurd stuffed with fish and pork meat paste).
The boiled eggs are halved and the yolks are then scooped out and added to the meat paste so nothing is wasted. The paste is then moulded into the eggs halves to form a trompe-l'œil whole egg effect. These are the dipped in a light batter before deep fried to achieve that crispiness. Once coated with the spicy Sambal, these magical eggs are a treat to behold.
They are delicious serve simply with steamed rice. I like my sambal to be slightly dry but feel free to add more liquid to make a wetter sauce for which you can dipped the eggs in and eat on its own as a nibble. Come to think of it, this is rather like a Nyonya twist on Scotch eggs!
4 large free range hard-boiled eggs
100g minced pork
300g raw prawns, shelled, deveined and finely chopped (you can do this in a food processor)
2 tbsp coconut milk
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp fish sauce
freshly ground black paper
sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying
For the batter:
1 tbsp cornflour
pinch of sea salt
For the Sambal:
1 tbsp belacan/shrimp paste, lightly toasted in a dry pan or in a hot oven
10 large dried chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes to soften, squeeze dry and cut into small pieces
2 large red chillies, cut into pieces
10 shallots or 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
5 candlenuts (substitute with macadamia nuts if not available)
3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamarind purée (you can get this readily available in jar)
100ml water (alternatively use coconut milk for a richer sauce)
2 tbsp sugar
sea salt, to taste
Prepare the Sambal. In a mortar and pestle, pound the belacan, chillies, shallots and candlenut into a fine paste.
Heat the oil in a wok over low heat and cooked the spice paste until fragrant, about 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly to stop them from burning. You will need to be patient for this, the spice paste will gradually turn from a pale red to a deep, rich maroon and the oil would have separated from the paste. Add the water or coconut milk and tamarind, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season with sugar and salt to taste. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the eggs.
Peel the eggs, cut into half lengthways and scoop out the egg yolks and set side.
In al large bowl, add the pork, prawns, reserved egg yolks, coconut milk,coriander, fish sauce, black pepper and mix well to combine. Divide into eight equal portions.
Wet your hands (this help to stop the mixture from sticking to your hands) and fill each half of the egg white with the mixture. Make sure you push it into the hollow dome left by the yolk and mould it with you hands to form the shape of a complete egg. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Prepare the batter by mixing the flour, cornflour, salt and water in a bowl. Whisk to form a smooth thick batter.
Heat the oil in a pan or wok over medium high heat to 180ºC.
Dip the eggs into the batter, shake off any excess and gently lower it, filling side down, into the oil. Fry in batches for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Remove and drained on some kitchen paper.
Heat up the sambal in wok, add the fried eggs and stir to coat slightly with the sambal so you don't lose the crispness of the eggs.
Serve immediately with some hot steamed rice.