Prawn Sambal Bostador is a delicious, somewhat spicy dish of prawns cooked in a chilli paste. This Eurasian recipe has its roots in Portuguese Malacca (Malaysia), and is very much Malay influenced in the spices used.
Eurasian = European + Asian
Get it? To read more about this culture and others in Singapore and Malaysia, head on over to the Singapore and Malaysia Recipes Page
What does Bostador mean?
It’s Creole Portuguese for ‘slap’, as in the first mouthful of this dish and you’re going to feel like you’ve been slapped by its fiery heat! Creole Portuguese, known as Kristao (pronounced Kristang) locally, is a type of Portuguese spoken by the Eurasian population in Singapore and Malaysia, the ones of Portuguese descent.
I had so many friends in Singapore whose families were very much steeped in the old Portuguese Eurasian culture, and would regularly speak in Kristao.
It was really wonderful to listen to, and it wasn’t long before I picked up a few sentences, enough to get on whenever they lapsed into a conversation. And like so many of my Portuguese-Eurasian recipes, this Prawn Sambal Bostador is a legacy from those childhood friendships.
Prawn Sambal Bostador Recipe
It is a spicy dish, there’s no getting away from that, and it is one of the many versions of sambals or (chilli paste, chilli sauce) found in South East Asia. And prawn sambal is very, very popular, right across the various cuisines and cultures.
They all have obvious similarities and differences, whether cooked by the Eurasians, the Chinese, the Nyonyas, the Malays or the Indians. And that’s before we leave Singapore and Malaysia and venture out to Indonesia, Thailand, et al!
What is Sambal?
There is no direct translation for the Malay/Indonesian word “sambal”. It can be both a dry-ish type of condiment or something with a little bit of sauce meant to be eaten as a side dish, like today’s Prawn Sambal Bostador. However, in both instances, they will be spicy.
Sri Lankans have the same thing too, spelled “sambol”, the most famous being “Pol Sambal”, a spicy condiment with a grated coconut base.
Some other Sambal Recipes on LinsFood
How to Serve Prawn Sambal Bostador?
Rice is always going to be good, whether it’s plain white/brown rice or any of the other types of rice we have on LinsFood: Nasi Lemak, Nasi Ulam, Nasi Kuning, Thai Green Rice. Besides that, flatbreads are also fabulous, to soak up all that scrumptious sauce, of whatever origin.
Some Specialist Ingredients for Cooking Prawn Sambal Bostador
This is really for those of you outside of South East Asia and/or who are not familiar with these ingredients. If you don’t have a specialist shop near you, go online, you can get anything online!
If you can’t get the dried shrimp and shrimp paste as listed below, leave them out.
You will still get a delicious sambal, not quite umami deep in flavour, but delicious nevertheless. Incidentally, you could use 3-4 tablespoons of this homemade chilli paste to make this Prawn Sambal Bostador too, just replace the paste ingredients with the chilli paste.
Dried Shrimp – click to read more. Leave this out if you can’t get it.
Shrimp Paste – click to read more. Again, leave out of you can’t get it.
Candlenuts – a type of nuts meant to enrich a sauce. If you can get macadamia nuts, these are the perfect substitute. If not, a smaller number of the much creamier cashew nuts will do for the recipe.
How spicy should it be?
As much or as little as you want it to be.
Needless to say, the variety and number of chillies you use will determine the heat level of your Prawn Sambal Bostador. Use 1 red jalapeño instead of the birds eye chillies, and use milder dried chillies, and also reduce the number.
Shall we get our aprons on?
More Eurasian Recipes
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Prawn Sambal Bostador, a Eurasian Recipe from Singapore and Malaysia
- a wok or a large frying pan
Making the paste
- Put half a kettle on.
- Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the dried chillies up into 2-3 pieces, depending on length and soak in hot water for 15 minutes to soften.
- Soak the dried shrimp in hot water for 10 minutes to soften.
- While waiting, quarter the onion, peel and clean the prawns.
- When the chillies and dried prawns have had their soaking times, drain and move on to the next step.
- Place all the paste ingredients in a chopper and blitz to a semi fine paste. Chances are, your dried chillies will still be a bit coarse, that’s ok. Set aside.
Prep the prawns (while the chillies and dried shrimps are soaking)
- Clean the prawns. Twist the head off carefully, leaving the rest of the shell on.
- The intestinal vein that runs along the back of the prawn should be visible and just sticking out. Give it a firm but gentle pull. Rinse the prawns well. I prefer to leave the shells on, but that's up to you.
Let's cook our Prawn Bostador
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or deep frying pan on medium heat and fry the garlic slices for 1 minute until they’re just beginning to brown. Drain on a saucer lined with kitchen paper and set aside.
- Add the second tablespoon of oil to the wok/frying pan and turn the heat up to medium-high.
- Add the ground paste and turmeric to the oil and stir fry for about 2 minutes until you get a strong aroma off it.
- Add the prawns, coating them completely with the paste, for about 30 seconds,
- Now add the the coconut milk, water, salt and sugar, cook for another 3-5 minutes until the prawns are thoroughly cooked. The time it takes will depend on the size of your prawns/shrimps; the bigger they are, the longer they will take to cook.
- Stir in the vinegar, and immediately take it off the heat.
- Scatter the fried garlic slices and fresh herbs and serve immediately with Nasi Lemak or just a plate of steamed rice.