Friday, 10 September 2010

Krupuk (prawn crackers)

If you're used to the tasteless prawn crackers usually served with takeway meals, be prepared for a shock. The Indonesians are masters at creating weird and wonderful variations on the theme, not all of them strictly prawn crackers, but crackers nonetheless, and they're all cooked in the same way - deep frying. They are universally eaten as an accompaniment to almost any meal, or simply as a crunchy snack.

The picture above shows a selection of Indonesian krupuk that Mrs K cooked last year after a friend in Holland sent her a selection. I have no idea what's in most of them, and the colours look a bit dodgy (the big round ones are rice-based), but they all taste great.

We actually got the krupuk for this recipe from our local small Chinese store - it's always been difficult to find Indonesian varieties, but the times seem to be changing. The small white ones we use are similar to the pre-cooked ones you may be familiar with, but when shopping try a few different varieties as they vary greatly - and most are awful. The large rectangular ones (on the right of the picture below) are branded Sidoarjo, an Indonesian company that actually has a krupuk blog, albeit abandoned.

The only ingredient you need is, unsurprisingly, cooking oil (Mrs K always uses sunflower oil). But Mrs K has another trick that she swears by (not that Mrs K ever swears. Ever). This involves kemiri, known here as candlenuts. These are ground and used as a thickener in many Indonesian recipes, but in this case Ms K just pops a whole one in the oil - she reckons it makes the krupuk retain their crispness for a couple of days longer. The Wai Hee Yong online store sometimes has these in stock, but we found some in a store in London's Chinatown. They're not essential for krupuk, though.

Kemiri (candlenuts)


Pour about 1.5 litres of oil into a wok or large saucepan. Heat it on a high flame until a slight haze is visible, then reduce the flame a bit. The easiest way to tell whether it's hot enough is to pop in a small piece of krupuk - almost immediately it should expand.

Put in small quantities at a time and take care - remember these things expand massively. As soon as they stop expanding, they're ready. Take them out with a strainer and pop them on some kitchen paper to soak up excess oil. Store them in an airtight container and they should stay crisp for at least 4-5 days.

As you can tell from the video, Mrs K still enjoys cooking krupuk - there is always something magical about the transformation.

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