Tuesday, April 17, 2012

sambal kerang (cockle sambal)

Hi! I have not been on an extended Spanish holiday. I wish. I did make it back from Barcelona, umm..... almost 4 months ago. And yes, I did promise photos, and yes, I did take them. Lots and lots of them. About two hundred, so you will understand my dilemma here;  I'm the kind of person who is crippled when I have too many options. Sometimes I think I might be happier in a vanilla only world............ naaaaaah, who am I kidding? Give me my Cherry Garcia, and make it a triple!

The last year has been a hectic one, thanks to a couple of back to back projects and my mulish insistence on starting yet another blog (this one) even as I struggle to find time to mind kids, hubs, home and self. Did I really ever have pedicures, gossipy afternoon tea sessions and spend hours at Borders and La Perla, just browsing?! 
So, I'm afraid those Spanish holiday shots will have to wait, till I find the time to sort through all  two hundred and seventeen of them..... but here's a peek at Gaudi's impossibly pretty pink house, to whet your appetite.

Now if stupid is as stupid does, then busy cooks as busy is and busy cooked this malevolently red, blessedly simple sambal for lunch today. Sambals bring out the psychic in me, because I can already see breakfast tomorrow, chilli coated cockles, slathered between two slices of (thickly) buttered bread. Hey! Don't knock my sandwich-to-be, if you haven't tried it! No one who has never tried a Marmite sandwich, will ever think it's good, and (practically) no one who has will be able to contemplate a future without one. 

Cockles are food of the gods, in this part of the world, but many shy away from it now, because of two little beasties called cholesterol and hepatitis.  Eater beware then, do your homework on the provenance of your shellfish and eat only when you really, really want it, not at the faintest stirring of kerang lust.

You'll find this, if you're lucky, at some local nasi padang stalls or if you know a kitchen maven makcik or two. Make no mistake, this is a Malay dish, and no one cooks this better than a Malay makcik (matronly aunty type woman) though I dare say my version is pretty damned sedap!

 Prep 20           Cook 20 minutes          Serves 4

Spice Paste

12 large fresh red chillies, seeded if you prefer
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 candlenuts

1 - 1 ½ tsp toasted and crumbled belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
1 stalk lemongrass
400 g shelled cockles (or clams if you prefer), thoroughly drained
1 tamarind slice
70 ml (1/3 cup) water
2/3 tsp salt (or to taste)
½ tsp sugar

Combine spice paste ingredients and pound or process to a paste. Set aside.

Heat 5 tablespoons oil and fry the belacan for about half a minute, stirring and breaking up thoroughly.

Add the lemongrass and fry for another half minute to release the aroma.

Add the spice paste and stir over moderate heat until fragrant and oil separates from paste.

Add cockles or clams and tamarind slice. Stir well for 3 – 4 minutes. Add water if thick, salt and sugar.  Stir well and simmer for 1 -2 minutes.

Take care not to overcook the cockles or clams, unless you like them rubbery.

Turn off heat and dish out. Serve with white rice, nasi lemak or on laksa.


  1. Hey gal, looks like u're back with a vengeance! U're gonna make me so jealous with your Spanish shots. Lol!

    I'm a huge fan of sambal & one who can never resist chilli even when I've a bad throat or cough. U've got some great work here, lady!

    1. Hi Shirley, thanks for dropping by. Only another Singaporean will understand the sambal obsession!

  2. A stupendous dish! Cannot go wrong with kerang, or chilli. Miss my kerang. Need to ask my mother to cook this for me - sounds like a good recipe. Thanks!

    1. Hi Hungryguy - I like your name! You sound like a starving single guy, no wife to cook for you? Poor thing!I'm sure your mum will be happy to cook this for you, if you ask. Hope you have a good meal in your near future :)

  3. Well hello there...nice to see you :) Love the pink house photo, and looking forward to more :)
    This dish sounds incredible, love the spiciness!
    Hope you are well, hugs

    1. Hi Alisha :) So kind of you to drop by. Hope you and the guys are doing well - you are dearly missed my friend!

  4. You did not extend your stay at that pink mansion? What a pity! Haha! At least this one is a soft pink, almost terra cotta. I can't remember which neighborhood now (aiya...sudah tua) but I used to drive by a hot pink house and it was an eye sore. So glad we did not have to live next door to that house.

    I say, I have not eaten kerang in years. Used to love it in curry mee. The more the better until the hepatitis scare. Now, it is not even offered anymore in the kopi tiam. I just had my bowl of noodles for breakfast but your sambal kerang is making me yearn for a bowl of curry mee or even nasi lemak. If only I can drive out to the hawker center...sigh!

    Good to have you back. :)

    1. I wish I could have extended my Barcelona stay Biren! Spain is lovely, the Catalonians were warm and friendly, the food simple but tasty and the leather boots and bags - OH MY!!!! If you love leather boots, go to Barcelona!!! They're gorgeous, pretty cheap and they are absolutely EVERYWHERE! Hubby was holding his breath each time we passed a shoe store and we passed by many, many, many shoe stores. Luckily for him, I just settled on one pair of taupe suede knee high boots.

      Gaudi's pink house was actually quite charming, inside and out. I wouldn't mind living in it at all, though pink is not my favourite colour.

      Maybe I should go over to Minnesota and open a nasi stall? hahaha! Don't worry, when you are here, I will feed you till you don't want to see another plate of sambal, or rice, for a long, long, time ;)

    2. Leather boots and handbags? Gosh, can't think of any girlfriend who doesn't love these two things. Since moving here, jackets are the third dangerous category.

      BTW, I made beef curry yesterday for dinner. Used that curry for curry mee this afternoon by adding some tauhu pok. Not exactly like the real curry mee but can't complain. Shiok makan!

      Nasi stall in MN? That would be awesome! There are evenings when I dream of driving out to the kopi tiam to buy a pack of nasi complete with kari ikan and ladies fingers and some sotong. On wintery nights, I sometimes think of Hokkien Cha or Kung Hu Cha. Now, I am going to have to pay a visit to the Asian grocery store soon. I don't think I will ever get tired of rice and sambal :)

  5. So good to have you back, and with tales of pink houses and even pinker cockles. Vintage Denise. I've only ever had the cockles you get in London's markets, served in a cup with a little forky thing. I think your way sounds much tastier - incredible actually, and especially the words lemongrass and tamarind are making me salivate. But one question: what are candlenuts? Oh and PS: knee-high taupe suede boots? I think we need a picture.

  6. Good to be back Ruby. Hope to be here more often too. Candlenuts are the Asian cousin of the macadamia and are similarly shaped, but with a rougher surface, more richness and less sweetness. They are crushed and added to our spice mixes for body and thickness. They also tone down the fire of chillies to some extent. Usually when a recipe includes candlenuts or buah keras in our lingo, there will be no coconut milk, but sometimes, as in laksa gravy for instance, both will be added for extra richness, when we want something to taste really "lemak" which means rich or creamy. All of which has me thinking, "Denise, you should have included this information in your post!" I need you here Rube! Boot pic coming up ;)

  7. Howdy Denise! Wow, just where have you been? You vanished for a certain period and then zoooommm back again. ha... Haven't heard from you for quite awhile. Missed you!
    Anyway, have a great week ahead, dear.

  8. Your baack!! and I'm late ... can't wait to see all the pics!!

  9. It looks absolutely gorgeous! So vibrant and fiery :-)


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