Malaysian Sambal Prawns and British asparagus stir fry

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In Malaysia we love strong flavours and the Malay Sambal Tumis is one of the most versatile sauces as it can be used in so many dishes. The most common and popular use of Sambal Tumis is in Nasi Lemak, a Malaysian streetfood breakfast sold by ladies who set up stalls on pavements and street corners most mornings. Sambal ikan bilis is served with a scoopful of fragrant coconut rice, a couple of slices of cucumber, half a hard boiled egg and some peanuts, all delivered wrapped in banana leaf for mere pennies.

Using Best of British Asparagus

British Asparagus

This is variation of the sambal recipe which we usually cook at home as part of a home cooked meal with various other dishes. Here we are using seasonal British Asparagus with some shelled and deveined prawns.

The rich umami flavour in the Sambal sauce is from the use of Belacan, the Malaysian fermented prawn paste. This can be substituted with Fish Sauce as it is not readily available in supermarkets yet.

Malaysian Sambal with prawns and British asparagus


  • One bundle British Asparagus
  • 400 g King Prawns or similar preferably raw

Sambal Sauce

  • 15 g Dried Chillies }
  • 100 g Fresh Red Chillies }
  • 250 g Shallots } Blended or pounded
  • 25 g Candlenuts }
  • 1 tbsp belacan powder }
  • Tamarind Juice - either from a jar or from the pulp
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste


  • Prepare the sambal sauce by blending the ingredients identified
  • Heat a wok or large frying pan and add some cooking oil
  • Fry the blended ingredients on a medium heat and keep stirring for about 10 minutes or until the oil surfaces. The sauce should not be too runny.
  • Meanwhile prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends and slicing them diagonally across the stalk like in the picture
  • Wash the prawns and sprinkle some sugar over them, this gives the prawns a bite instead of being soft and soggy
  • Add the prawns to the sauce and cook until the prawns turn pink
  • Add the asparagus and stir in and season to taste.
  • Serve with steamed white rice and a selection of other dishes as part of a family meal

Sainsburys provided the main ingredients for this dish for their Best of British series.

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