This savory sambal is the perfect use for local okra, which is abundant in hotter weather. Alone, sambal okra is a light appetizer, but over steamed rice, it is substantial enough to be a main course. Mucilage—the mixture of sugars and proteins found naturally in okra—makes okra a great thickener, but can also cause it to become slimy when cooked. In Malaysian cuisine, the pods are sliced thin just before cooking and stir-fried over high-heat to avoid the telltale texture. Visit one of the many global grocery stores in Orlando for Malaysian shrimp paste and other ingredients.
Sambal Okra by Chef Alexia Gawlak, Swine and Sons
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course
3 dried red chilies (such as arbol)
1 tablespoon belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 shallots, julienned
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 small Florida shrimp (such as Canaveral White), cleaned
20 okra, sliced thin on a bias
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Pour boiling water over dried chilies and let soak until softened. When soft, remove chilies from water. Slit chilies lengthwise and remove seeds. Then slice into ½–inch sections.
- Measure belacan and place in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons hot water. Mash with a fork until mixture becomes as smooth as possible.
- Dissolve sugar in lime juice.
- Heat oil in a wok or heavy sauté pan until it begins to smoke slightly. Add shallots, garlic, chilies and salt and stir-fry, tossing frequently, until shallots wilt.
- Add shrimp and belacan. Stir-fry until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add okra and cook 1 more minute before adding lime-sugar mixture. Cook another minute and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
This recipe originally appeared in the Spring 2014 Issue of Edible Orlando. Subscribe now and don’t miss a single bite.