Spicy Tamarind Shrimp Recipe (Kung Yai Pad Som Makahm Bpiak)

Kasma's Southern Style Spicy Tamarind Prawns with Crisped Shallots and Garlic

This tasty recipe from cooking instructor Kasma Loha-unchit uses tamarind and spicy chilis to bring the flavor of the shrimp to life in a distinctly southern Thai way. Tamarind is the key ingredient in this dish and can not be left out if you want to maintain a distinct bold and balanced flavor. This dish is best prepared with Tiger prawns if possible though any type of shrimp can be used.


  • 1 lb. large prawns or shrimp (about 16-20 per pound size)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 2 large shallots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise, 1/8-inch thick
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup tamarind juice the thickness of fruit concentrate
  • 4 large dried red chilies, each cut into 2-3 pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 jalapeno or serrano peppers, chopped with seeds
  • 2 Tbs. fish sauce (nahm bplah), to taste
  • 1 Tbs. Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Maggi or Gold Mountain seasoning sauce
  • 1 Tbs. palm or coconut sugar, to taste
  • Lettuce to line serving platter
  • 1 red jalapeno pepper, cut into long, fine slivers
  • 1 green onion (dense part of stalk only), cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths, then split into thin matchstick-size slivers
  • A few cilantro sprigs for garnishing


Shell, de-vein and butterfly the prawns; give them a saltwater bath to freshen. Rinse and drain well. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before stir-frying.

Heat the oil in a small skillet for 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced shallots and fry over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until the pieces are evenly browned and crisped (may take 20-25 minutes). Drain from oil with a fine wire-mesh strainer. Return oil to skillet and fry the garlic over medium-high heat until golden brown. Drain likewise, reserving the oil for stir-frying.

Heat a wok over high heat until its entire surface is smoking hot. Swirl in 2 Tbs. of the reserved oil to coat the wok surface. Wait a few seconds for it to heat. Then add the dried chili pieces and fry quickly until they are dark red. Remove from oil with the wire-mesh skimmer. Toss the chopped onion and chilies into the wok and saute until softened and aromatic. Add tamarind juice, fish sauce, Sriracha hot chili sauce, Maggi or Gold Mountain sauce and palm sugar. Stir well to blend and heat to a sizzling boil.

Add the prawns and with frequent stirring, cook over high heat until the sauce is thick and the prawns are cooked to your liking (2-4 minutes, depending on their size). Turn off heat and add the fried shallots, garlic and dried chilies Toss well. Transfer to a lettuce-lined serving platter. Garnish with slivered red chili, green onion and cilantro sprigs.

Serves 6 with other dishes and rice in a shared family-style meal.

To save yourself the work of crisping shallots and garlic, use pre-packaged products available in small containers or bags substitute with 2-3 Tbs. for the shallots and 2 Tbs. for the garlic.

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Recipe Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit, Dancing Shrimp, pp.205-206. Image © 2010, laughingmango/istockphoto.com

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