Recipe: prawns in rich coconut sauce (sambal goreng udang) by Sri Owen

A 'fundamental' Southeast Asian dish best served with rice

A pan full of sambal goreng udang
Recipe from 'The Rice Book' by Sri Owen
(Image credit: Yuki Sugiura)

Prawns in coconut sauce are popular all over Indonesia and Malaysia, said Sri Owen. Like beef rendang, it is one of those fundamental Southeast Asian dishes whose flavours, textures and colours all complement each other precisely. Naturally, the dish should be served with rice, and perhaps stir-fried vegetables or a salad.

Ingredients: for 6-8 people

  • 5cm lemongrass 
  • 2 lime leaves 
  • 425ml hot water 
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped 
  • 115g creamed coconut, chopped 
  • 1kg frozen king prawns, completely thawed

For the paste

  • 3 shallots or 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove 5cm ginger, peeled and sliced 
  • 3 large red chillies, deseeded and chopped 
  • 1 tsp crumbled shrimp paste (optional) 
  • 2 candlenuts (or macadamia nuts or blanched almonds), chopped (optional)


  • Tip: in London, I make this with frozen king prawns from the supermarket that come peeled, de-veined and partly pre-cooked. This cuts out a lot of preparation, and the prawns are excellent provided they are thoroughly thawed before being quickly cooked, and not reheated thereafter.
  • Blend all the ingredients for the paste with 2 tablespoons of water until smooth.
  • Scrape the paste into a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
  • Add the lemongrass, lime leaves and hot water, then bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Now, add the tomatoes and creamed coconut, stirring to dissolve the coconut. Simmer and stir for 2 minutes, then taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. (This sauce can be made up to 24 hours in advance. It can be kept in the fridge, but can't be frozen.)
  • When you are ready to cook the prawns, bring the sauce to a rolling boil, give it all a good stir and put in the prawns. Simmer the prawns for 4 minutes only – any longer and they will become tough and tasteless. Discard the lemongrass and lime leaves, then serve immediately.

Recipe from "The Rice Book: History, Culture, Recipes" by Sri Owen, published by Bloomsbury at £30. Photography by Yuki Sugiura. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £23.99 (incl. p&p), call 020-3176 3835 or visit

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