Tamarind Shrimp (or Assam Prawns) is a Malaysian Nyonya dish that is so easy to prepare and yet delivers huge flavor. The sweet, sour and savory flavors of tamarind pair so well with the shrimp. Best of all, it’s ridiculously easy to prepare with only 4 ingredients!
Tamarind Shrimp, also known as Assam Prawns is a well-loved Malaysian Nyonya dish. It is one of my favorite ways to enjoy shrimp. Don’t let the simplicity of this dish fool you. The sweet and sour tamarind sauce pairs so nicely with the delicate shrimp.
Even though it may be slightly messy and tedious to peel the shells at the dining table, it is well worth the effort. Stir-frying the shrimp with the shell on allows it to get slightly charred on the outside to give it even more amazing flavor without overcooking the shrimp meat.
How to Make Tamarind Shrimp (Assam Prawns)
Tamarind is sold in various forms but for this recipe, we will be using tamarind pulp. Tamarind pulp is essentially compressed pulp from the tamarind pod without the shell and seeds.
You can usually find these compressed tamarind pulp bricks sold in Asian supermarkets, or you can also purchase it online. Most recipes that call for tamarind pulp (such as this one, and Pad Thai) usually require a very small amount as a little goes a long way. Fortunately, tamarind pulp will keep in the refrigerator for a long time (years!)
Place 1 tablespoon of tamarind pulp in a small bowl and add 1/4 cup of warm water. Allow the tamarind to soak for about 15 minutes, then gently stir the mixture with a spoon.
Pour the tamarind juice over 1 pound of large shrimp (deveined, shell on), then add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 a teaspoon of dark soy sauce.
It is crucial to leave the shell on the shrimp for this recipe as you’ll be able to char the shrimp just slightly to give it a flavor boost without worrying about overcooking the meat.
Use a spoon (or your hands) to combine the marinade ingredients and the shrimp. Allow the shrimp to marinade for 15 minutes.
Just before you are ready to cook the shrimp, separate the shrimp from the marinade liquid. Doing so will allow the shrimp to char nicely in the wok. Keep the liquid as you’ll be adding it back to the shrimp towards the end of the cooking process.
Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. As soon as the wok starts to smoke a little, add the shrimp to the wok in one single layer.
Leave the shrimp untouched for about 30 seconds to allow it to char just slightly.
Use your wok spatula to flip the shrimp to cook the other side. Stir-fry the shrimp every few seconds to ensure even cooking. Shrimp cook very quickly so it will only take about 2 – 3 minutes at the most.
Just before the shrimp are fully cooked, pour the marinade liquid into the wok. If you like your Tamarind Shrimp with lots of sauce, simply add a bit more water.
Transfer the shrimp to a dish and serve immediately. Tamarind Shrimp pairs well with steamed rice.
- 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
- 1 lb shrimp deveined, unpeeled
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- Place tamarind pulp in a small bowl and add 1/4 cup of warm water. Allow to soak for 15 minutes, then use a spoon to stir the mixture.
- Pour the tamarind juice over the shrimp. Add sugar and dark soy sauce to the shrimp. Stir well to combine all ingredients.
- Allow the shrimp to marinade for 15 minutes, then separate the shrimp from the marinade liquid.
- Heat cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Just as the wok starts to smoke a little, add the shrimp to the wok in one single layer.
- Leave the shrimp untouched for about 30 seconds to allow the shrimp to char slightly, then use a wok spatula to flip the shrimp to cook the other side. Stir-fry to ensure even cooking.
- Just before the shrimp are fully cooked, pour the marinade liquid into the wok. If you prefer your Tamarind Shrimp with more sauce, simply add more water.
- Transfer to a dish and serve immediately with steamed rice