I dread buying prawns, the seawater variety…or what they call pek hay (white prawns)…
…as I would have to go through the tedious chore of removing the heads and shell and cutting the top side and removing the veins…and if it isn’t a garbage collection day, the stench from your litter bin later can be quite unbearable. I do not have this problem when buying our giant freshwater prawns, the udang galah or tua thow hay (big-headed prawns)…
…as the sellers would be able to de-vein them for me without removing anything else – I have yet to learn the skill…though I don’t think I ever will.
Well, I was at this shop in Penang and I got to try the very nice har mee (prawn noodles) there. The guy was closing shop for the day and I saw him pouring away the leftover stock into the drain outside and inside the huge cauldron were all the heads and shell of all the prawns that he served with his noodles. Since then, that is exactly what I would do everytime I buy those prawns – wash and rinse the heads and shell well and boil…and I would solve the problem of having to put up with the aftermath – that horrible smell and I would have the very nice and sweet prawn stock for use when I cook something.
Like the other day, I bought some and I used the stock to cook this delightfully tasty kampung-style sayur rebus (boiled vegetables)…
Normally, I would boil some belacan (dried prawn paste) and a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) for the stock but since I was using the prawn stock that day, I only added a bit of belacan for the fragrance and taste, along with the chili. Once I had brought it to boil, I just threw in the paku (jungle fern) and baby corn…plus one small ikan buris, our local freshwater river fish, that I managed to get from the market that same morning and added a pinch of salt – I needed to do that as without the ikan bilis, it would not be salty at all. You may use any vegetable for this soup actually, even bitter gourd, but this is our usual combination – paku and baby corn or cangkuk manis and sweet potatoes/pumpkin and there are other options as well, too many to list here.
That small fish cost me around RM10.00 that day and there was not all that much to eat, good for the sweetness and the flavour only. With the current prices these days, such simple kampung-style dishes may still be as simple and still very nice but I am afraid they are no longer all that affordable anymore.
As for the prawns, I bought the big ones – the pek hay…and they cost RM35.00 a kilo which would make them as expensive as the udang galah – the smaller or medium-sized ones would be around this same price while the bigger ones may go up to RM45-50.00 a kilo these days. Of course, there are the smaller ones of those pek hay – selling at around RM15.00 a kilo or less and normally, we would just buy those for cho-liao (use as ingredient), for instance, when frying vegetables, just for the taste and the sweetness but when we want to cook a prawn dish, we would have no choice but to fork out the money and get the big ones.
Ah well, I guess that’s just the way things are going – what to do? Sigh!!!!!