This week was one of those crazy work weeks where there was no time to breathe, the days were nonstop meetings, and by the end of the week I was absolutely fried. Staying focused for "strategic planning" meetings without cutting someone or hugging yourself and rocking back and forth in your chair, moaning “Bored…bored…bored…boredboredboredbored” isn’t easy! I know, I know--Those of you who have jobs outside the corporate world would drown in the corporatespeak overload. As much as you think you won't go there, you do! I catch myself spewing out words like "leverage", "ROI" and "value proposition" way too often. And yes, I hate myself for it every time those words tumble from my mouth.
My friend Becky (I’ve told you about her amazing food before. Did you go get her cookbook yet?) and I had planned to have brunch together Saturday morning, because it had been a while since we’d hung out and caught up. Rather than going out somewhere we decided to make food for each other, drawing from our respective “death meal” lists.
If you’re someone who is focused on food and cooking, and can think of no better way to spend a Saturday than sitting on the floor with cookbooks scattered around you, interrupting one another when you find something you Want. To. Make. Now, then you probably have an idea of what I’m saying. We all have our mental list of “this would be one if the food items I want included in my last meal on this earth.” Naturally, those lists are nuanced, depending on the person. Mine involves a naked Ryan Reynolds, assorted farm animals and a jar of peanut butter.
But I digress…
Becky and I have our own lists of favorites, and when we spend time together we inevitably get to, “Ohmygod I have to make _____________ for you!” Saturday, we picked a couple of the dishes we knew the other had never tried and gave it a go. Becky made the most amazing lamb and mint meatballs with a creamy tomato and fenugreek sauce. They were melt in your mouth gorgeous and reminded me of butter chicken, even though they didn’t have a ton of dairy in the sauce. If you ask her nicely, she may even give you her recipe.
For my contribution, I made a street food dish I tried during my last business trip to Singapore, called Udang Nestum, or Cereal Prawns. Fried prawns, mixed in a caramelized, buttery, chile-blasted, curry leaf spiked sauce with bits of Nestum Cereal. Nestum is a Nestle product sold in Southeast Asia, and is similar to cream of wheat. It has a vanilla-y, malted aroma to it. It sounds a bit strange but it will knock your socks off. It’s hard to find in the US (I’ve relied on friends traveling to and from Singapore on business to procure it), but I finally managed to find a link here and figured since the ingredients are obtainable, I’d share the recipe with you. For frying the shrimp, you can sub in other flours for the cornstarch. I prefer cornstarch because I think it adds more crunch to fried foods on its own than it does mixed with other flours.
Oh, I realize indian lamb meatballs and Indonesian cereal prawns aren’t the most traditional breakfast food, but we accounted for that too. Just make a pot of coffee, fry an egg and put it over your cereal prawns (I guarantee you will be a convert forever), and add some gossip. It’s brunch!
Thanks, Becky, for taking photos while we cooked! Thanks also for destroying my New Years diet.
1 lb. prawns (Note from Marc: Becky schooled me on this one: Try to find prawns from the US, wild if possible, to avoid all of the antibiotics and crap pumped into foreign and farm-raised shrimp)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 cup corn starch
2 tbsp butter
2 salted duck egg yolks (Note from Marc: You can buy salted duck eggs at any Asian market)
3 red thai chilies, sliced thinly, diagonally (Note from Marc: If you don’t love the heat, you can substitute milder Fresno chiles)
50 g curry leaves
2 Tbsp granulated or palm sugar
50 g Nestum cereal original
Peanut oil (for frying shrimp)
- Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tail intact.
- Mix salt and pepper into the shrimp and let it marinate 30 minutes.
- Heat cooking oil in a wok. Dip prawns in egg and dust with cornstarch. Deep-fry prawns in hot oil for 3-4 minutes till golden. Drain on paper towel and set aside for later use.
- Melt butter in a wok. Add mashed salted yolks into hot butter. Stir-fry for a couple of seconds.
- Add curry leaves, sliced chilies, sugar and Nestum cereal. Quickly stir-fry for 2 minutes, till cereal changes color, getting somewhat light and crunchy. Toss in fried shrimp. Mix well and remove from heat.