I call this dish Thai prawns very loosely, you probably will not find this in Thailand as I have drawn on my knowledge of the Thai cuisine and created a dish using some of my favourite ingredients. Usually I'm a stickler for authenticity but sometimes it's just nice to play around in the kitchen and create something completely original to your own palate.I always find that as long as you use the best quality ingredients, you will find it makes a HUGE difference. The two key ingredients in the Thai prawns are fresh (and they really must be fresh) Kaffir lime leaves, these are now available in Sainsbury's so no excuses. Also Thai sweet basil, which is now available in Waitrose. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard chefs suggesting that if you cannot get hold of sweet basil just use normal basil, this is completely ridiculous as they are not even remotely similar. Sweet basil has a lovely aniseed flavour which you could only replace (at a push) by Tarragon, I digress but I will say all of these products are readily available and make a huge difference. This dish was extremely tasty and a complete success , I'm sure my husband thought the same after his three LARGE helpings.
You will need:
200g of raw king prawns
1/2 tsp of shrimp paste (make sure you don't invite guests to your house the day after it tends to pong)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 lemon grass stick, the inner part only
6 garlic cloves
3 red chillies (mild large chillies from the supermarket)
1 large red onion halved and sliced
2 medium tomatoes chopped
3 tablespoons of sugar
150ml of coconut milk
A pinch of salt
4 fresh lime leaves, stalks removed and finely sliced
A small handful of french bean top and tailed then cut into thirds
The juice of one lime
A bunch of sweet basil
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
A handful of salted peanuts roughly crushed
2 spring onions
Preparation is the key so try to get everything chopped and prepped in advance.
To make the dish go further I halved each prawn cutting through the back where the intestinal tract is and placed them to one side. Finely chop two of the chillies(reserving the third for later), garlic and inner part of the lemon grass, by this i mean the outer leaves removed, the inner part is very tender and you should have no difficulty chopping it, if you do you have not removed enough of the outer leaves.
In a large frying pan or wok fry the shrimp paste on medium in the sesame oil until it begins to break down, this should only take a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic, chilli and lemon grass and fry until you begin to smell the garlic. Add the onions to the pan and the water so the garlic will not catch. When the onions have softened add the tomatoes and sugar, the sugar will begin to caramelise the onions, this is when you should add the coconut milk, fish sauce and salt. The reason I use both is because salt adds a roundness that fish sauce does not.
Allow to reduce for five minutes and add the sliced kaffir lime leaves, prawns and the french beans, cook for a further minute and turn off the heat, do not panic if the prawns are not throughly cooked they will carry on cooking in the residual heat.
Lastly add the juice of a lime, the sweet basil leaves and of course the crushed peanuts for texture, if you are allergic then you can leave them out.
I garnish the dish with the remaining chilli and the sliced spring onions. Serve immediately with rice.