As part of my Chinese New Year prep, I've decided to make these mini prawn rolls. If you have never tried them before, you will be soon be addicted. Although these savoury nibbles have long been associated with the New Year celebration, their popularity meant that they are now available throughout the year and not just around the festive season. Good thing? I would say so.
To make the mini prawn rolls, you start by preparing the spicy aromatic shrimp sambal fillings or as we called it in Singapore, Hae bee hiam 蝦米香 . This piquant condiment is made by frying pounded/grind dried shrimps (hae bee) in hot chilli Sambal tumis. They are then rolled in little squares of spring roll skins before deep fried to golden brown. This merging of Chinese ingredients with Malay spices is a fine example of typical Nyonya cooking.
The shrimp sambal is really easy to make and does not take up too much time. You can of course make them days in advance and then when you find yourself having a bit more free time, embark on rolling them into individual mini rolls. If you find these rather fiddly, you can of course simply just make the filling.
Hae bee hiam is incredibly versatile. You can sandwiched them between slices of buttered bread for a delicious sandwich, miles away from those boring everyday options. Scattered them liberally on toast for a quick snack or use them as crunchy toppings on salads to give an added punchy oomph.
My favourite, however, is to toss plenty of them on a plate of white fluffy steamed rice à la Posh rice toppings. Delicious!
But of course, if you have the patience and perseverance to continue in transforming the filling into something even more irresistible, do roll them into these tiny nibbles.
Leave these out when entertaining and your guests will be suitably impressed and grateful but remember, always save some for yourself. Believe me, these will be gone in no time and then you'll be kicking yourself for not doing so.
Ingredients (makes loads, I've lost count after 150 or so…)
For the Hae Bee Hiam:
300g dried shrimps (Hae bee), rinsed and drained
1 tbsp tamarind purée
For the sambal/spice paste:
8-10 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water and drained
10 shallots or 1 medium onion, skinned and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried shrimp paste (belacan), toasted
6 candlenuts (substitute with macadamia nuts if you can't get hold of this)
4 lemongrass, finely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp ground turmeric
To make the mini prawn rolls:
20 sheets of spring roll skins, cut into 3cm squares
a small amount of flour and water, mix to a paste and use to seal the rolls
Sunflower oil, for deep frying
Dry the shrimps thoroughly in a low heat oven for about 1 hour. Pound into fine powder using a mortar and pestle or alternatively, use a food processor.
Pound all the ingredients for the sambal into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, blitz in a food processor.
Heat about 3 tablespoon sunflower oil in a wok or large pan over low heat. Add the spice paste 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 tamarind purée, followed by the ground dried shrimps and stir-fry for another 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is almost dry. Transfer to a dish and leave to cool.
Once cooled, stir in the sugar and mix thoroughly.
You have just made the Hae Bee Hiam or Spicy Shrimps Sambal. Store this in an airtight container if not using immediately.
To make the prawn roll, place a spring roll skin square on the work surface with one corner facing you. Spoon a small amount of the prawn sambal mixture in a line on skin. Fold the corner nearest to you over the mixture, then fold the left and right hand corners in to enclosed. Roll up to a neat and tight roll (like a mini cigar shape), brushed the edge with a paste made out of some flour and water and press edge to seal. Repeat until all ingredients are used up.
Heat the oil in a pan to 160ºC and deep fry the prawns rolls in batches until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool.
Once cool, reward yourself with a couple or a handful of this before storing in airtight container.