KitchenTigress: Udang Masak Nanas

Udang Masak Nanas

Udang masak nanas is a Nonya soup that's sweet, sour and salty. The 3 flavours are strong but not overwhelming because they're well balanced. The main ingredients are udang (prawns) and nanas (pineapple). The recipe also uses lots of herbs and spices. Nonya food is never subtle, right?

This is another recipe from Mrs Wee Kim Wee's collection in "Cooking for the President". It's the fourth recipe I've tried from the book.

Udang masak nanas is great for whetting the appetite because it's slightly tangy and a wee bit spicy. And prawns are, for me, always a treat.

Udang masak nanas is an easy soup. Just gather all the ingredients in a pot and simmer away. Kid stuff!

My mother made a dish very similar to Udang Masak Nanas but, instead of prawns, she used a small fish called kekek (ponyfish). The ex-president's wife sometimes used the wonderfully tasty fish too. That's not surprising since the basic recipe is quite common and adaptable.

You know what's surprising? Mrs Wee made omelettes with pig brains on Sundays as a treat, just like my mother! Her daughter, like me, had to clean the brains with toothpicks. And the two cooks' recipes were practically the same, not that one could vary a Chinese style omelette much.

It's a pity my mother has passed away. Otherwise, she'd be really tickled to see that she and the ex-first lady share a recipe as esoteric as pig brain omelette.

Source: Cooking for the President, Wee Eng Hwa
(Recipe for 8 persons)

2 kg underripe pineapple, tart and not too juicy
Rempah kuning
30 g candlenuts
80 g galangal, wash, peel and grate
8 g turmeric, scrape off skin and wash
2 dried chillies – soak in warm water till soft, about 30 minutes
30 g large red chillies, wash and trim
100 g shallots, peel and wash

20 g belachan – toast, grind/pound to yield 8 tsp powder
2 stalks lemongrass, lower part only, wash and crush
2 large turmeric leaves – wash, tear from main vein 2.5 cm wide, snip off fibrous ends
4 pieces tamarind skin
sugar to taste, about 8 tbsp
salt to taste, about 4 tsp salt
2 litres water (4 litres in original recipe)

1 kg large or medium prawns, 16-32 pieces, trim, devein and wash
50 lemon basil leaves
4 red bird's eye chillies, rinse and crush
2 tsp dark soya sauce
4 tbsp light soya sauce
2 calamansi limes – rinse, halve and combine juice and peel with all other ingredient

Peel, core and rinse pineapple. Cut into chunky, bite size slices. Reserve core for making soup.

Pound or grind ingredients for rempah kuning till very fine.

Put all ingredients (including pineapple core) except sliced pineapple, prawns and lemon basil in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes, covered. Add sliced pineapple and top up with water if necessary to cover by about 1 cm. Simmer gently till soft, 10-15 minutes depending on how ripe the pineapples are. Discard pineapple core and tamarind skin. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If soup lacks 'oomph', increase heat and reduce by boiling rapidly. Set aside till ready to serve.

When you're ready to eat, bring soup to a boil. Add prawns and poach till just cooked, stirring and turning as necessary to ensure even cooking. Transfer everything to a serving bowl immediately, arranging prawns on top. (Don't hide prawns underneath pineapple or leave them in the pot. Otherwise, they would overcook in the residual heat.) Sprinkle with lemon basil. Serve with chillies, dark and light soya sauce, and lime juice and peel combined as a dip.

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