Sambal green beans with shrimp

Happy Family Day weekend everyone! I swear sometimes life gets so busy, that an extra day for the weekend feels like such the luxury. I’ve been spending my time stocking up the fridge, cooking, running errands, socializing, and just enjoying the sunshine outside by the water on the Vancouver seawall.

Today, I cooked this sambal green bean dish inspired by a recent dinner I had at Banana Leaf. If you live in Vancouver, you’ve definitely been to one of the several Banana Leaf locations around the city before. Along with the roti canai dish, the sambal green beans is my favourite there. A quick google, and I had a basic idea of what to throw together to recreate it at home.

One problem: the sambal sauce that makes the dish so tasty relies heavily on shrimp paste and dried shrimps. My dilemma was that these shrimp populations are lacking in data, and of dubious origins. The larger shrimp in the recipe were easy to source sustainably at my local grocery store, but the dried shrimp and shrimp paste were unhappily difficult to find. I searched for sustainable sources on the internet, scoured Whole Foods shelves, scrutinized labels, explored dried scallops as an alternative, briefly considered somehow dehydrating sustainable shrimp with a hair dryer… and no luck. Having exhausted all my options, I grudgingly went ahead with the recipe, but really wish that there was more scientific information available on the imported shrimp products, and probably won’t make this recipe again anytime soon.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 shallots or a medium onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 0.5 cup of dried shrimps, soaked, drained, and chopped
  • 1 Tb  shrimp paste
  • 2Tb sambal oelek
  • 1 package of large shrimp
  • Green beans
  • Long eggplants
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Okra

Method

  1. In an oven at 350F, bake the chopped eggplant with oil, salt and pepper. I find that this ensures that the eggplant is creamy and well-cooked, instead of having cubes of spongey eggplant in a dish. Remove when the eggplant is cooked (about 20-30min).
  2. In a food processor, blend the shallots, garlic cloves, dried shrimps, shrimp paste, and sambal oelek together to make a paste.
  3. In a large wok, heat some canola/grapeseed oil. When hot and shimmering, turn your cooking vent on high, and add in the contents of the food processor. This will get very “fragrant” i.e. the chilis in the sambal oelek sauce might make you sneeze, and all the shrimp products will start to get a bit stinky, so you will want to ventilate things at home, or make it outside if you can.
  4. After frying up the mixture for a couple minutes, add in the chopped veggies, and large, defrosted shrimp. I also removed the shells and tails from the shrimp to make it easier to eat because no one wants to put their utensils down in the middle of a meal to grapple with their saucy shrimp in an attempt to make it edible.
  5. Sautee for a bit, then add a little bit of water to the wok and cover. Cook until the shrimp are done, and the veggies are no longer raw, but still crunchy.
  6. Add the baked eggplant, toss, and cook for a couple more minutes.
  7. Serve with coconut rice or you can even eat it just by itself, while feeling guilty over the plight of all the probable sea turtles and dolphins that died as bycatch for the sambal sauce.

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