As the 4th of July weekend arrives at neck braking speed, it's that time of year - a time for long barbecues, ice cold lemonade, irate family, long beer guzzling sessions, fly swatters, yummy desserts and of course fire works. Long holiday weekends surrounded by family and friends are the best time to pull out those recipes that present like we've been slaving on a hot stove for hours when in reality, it's been no fuss & no muss. And though things may still look a little different this year in 2021 as we mask and vaccinate our way out of this pandemic, it doesn't mean that we can't cook up some incredible seafood on the grill.
And to that end I have just the thing for you - delicious prawns marinated in Asian spices and skewered not on bamboo but fragrant lemon grass. Ooh! just saying makes me want to smack my lips!
This recipes hails from Jakarta, Indonesia - a land with its share of grime, crime, dirt and poverty and on the other end of the spectrum, throngs of the stinking rich & affluent, a land of have's and have not's. Beneath this layer, is a rich labyrinth of culture, history, stunning architecture and soulful people. And for me that heart is found not in the air conditioned palaces & westernized five star deluxe hotels that are plentiful like fleas on a stray but here, in the historical port district of Sunda Kelapa.
I will forever remember Sunda Kelapa for these things ~ the ever smiling friendly locals, Phinisi Schooners & the best Balinese prawn satays - Satay Udang I had ever eaten. Jumbo fresh prawns in a delicious marinade & then grilled on lemon grass skewers. The heady scent from the lemon grass mingled with succulent mouthwatering prawns was enough to make a grown woman like myself weep! Phinisi Schooners by the way, are massive wooden ships 131 ft. long & 50 ft. wide and are traditional vessels of the Bugis people of Sulawesi, still used to deliver 950 tons of cargo at a time to the archipelago. The history of Sunda Kelapa dates back to 12th century when it was one the major trading routes between Southern India, China and the Middle East.
It was such an honor to have been given the chance to work on an Urban rejuvenation project of this area in a joint effort between my University, UNSW & the Indonesian Government. It was during the weeks that I spent here in the sweltering heat with my colleagues working, that I found a little fish shop in the kampungs that sold the very best Balinese Prawn Satay. The prawns were fresh off the boats and ironically, of all the fancy meals and pubs we visited I remember this meal the most.
So easy to make, these satays require extra large prawns. So when our local Costco was selling jumbo shrimp, a.k.a prawns the size of my fist, I was swift in getting us some with the intent to make these delectable satays.
Satay Udang | Balinese Jumbo Shrimp Satays in Lemongrass Skewers Serves 4
1-1/2 lbs. extra large fresh prawns (tiger prawns if available) 1/3 cup dark soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. coriander powder
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. canola oil
3-4 garlic cloves 1" fresh ginger root
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 ground black pepper
Marinade - Soy sauce, juice of 1 lime, coriander powder, light brown sugar, oil, garlic cloves & fresh ginger root . In a small mini-chopper place the ginger root (unpeeled is OK) & peeled garlic cloves. Finely chop.
Add the remaining marinade ingredients to the chopper. Blend for a few seconds until it is well blended. Set aside.
Use defrosted (if frozen) extra large (king) prawns. leave the shell, on. I always find that it keeps the prawns to be much more succulent during the grilling or broiling process. They are also easy to shell off.
Butterfly the prawns using a sharp non-serrated knife and cutting into the back of the prawn, through the shell. Do not cut all the way through but enough that the prawn halves can be opened up like a butterfly. Continue till all prawns are butterflied. Set aside in a non-metallic dish.
Open up the prawns and pour the marinade over the prawns. Rub the marinade all over and inside the cut prawns so the flavors completely saturate them.
Set the prawns aside to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.
Lemon grass -
About 6 lemon grass stalks are required. Cut off the frayed tops leaving you with 9-11" long lemon grass stalks.
Pull the leaves from the root knob until you reach inner strong succulent lemon grass stalks. Set aside.
Fire up the gas grill or the broiler at this point to pre-heat until it reaches 400-450 deg. F. and set up for direct grilling method.
Use a metal skewer (or like in my case the tip of a turkey injector, ha ha ) and open up each of the prawns and make 2 starter holes through the under side of the prawn (through the shell)
Skewer a lemongrass stalk through the starter holes applying light pressure to push the stalk through. Repeat the process so you have 2-3 prawns per lemongrass stalk, about 3/4" apart.
Keep going till all the lemon grass skewers and prawns are used up.
Oil the grate before grilling. Now it is time to grill the shrimp.
Grill the shrimp over direct, medium heat for 5-7 minutes, turning the shrimp halfway through the process. Brush the marinade on the prawns before turning over to the other side.
The outside of the shrimp should turn a nice pink color when it is cooked while the meat inside should be white and opaque. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or else it will become tough.