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By Cherry on a Cake

This is a Malay salad recipe that is one of my favourites. I love the combination for the dressing which happens to work superbly as a dressing for a bowl of boiled, fat and juicy cockles as well....absolutely mouth watering. However, if you would like the best of both worlds the combination of cockles and bean sprouts and the dressing makes a fantastic seafood vegetable salad and in my opinion it is salad heaven as far as I'm concerned.

I just can't describe how much I love this dish. Unfortunately I could not get any decent cockles at the wet market today so I had to settle for a just a lovely bean sprout salad.

The dressing is made up of typical South East Asian ingredients. Tamarind juice for the sourness, lime juice for it's tanginess, a pounded golden coconutty paste (kerisik) for body and sweetness and chillies for some spiciness and bite. A totally absorbful, if there is such a word, and clingy dressing. The bean sprouts take in the flavours well and if I had used cockles the dressing would just coat, enter its crevices and cling to those succulent, juicy morsels.

Here's the recipe..........

180 gm of bean sprouts, tailed if you're feeling up to it, washed and drained.
3 limes
1 Tbsp of tamarind paste
2 large red chillies
3 bird chillies (optional)
5-6 shallots, sliced finely
1 cup of freshly grated coconut or 2/3 cup canned dessicated coconut

Place the grated coconut into a small to medium pan and dry fry or roast until it turns a dark golden brown. This takes about 7 to 9 minutes over medium flame. Watch it carefully because the coconut can burn easily and keep stirring to allow the coconut to brown evenly.

While it is still hot or warm pound the roasted/fried grated coconut in a pestle and mortar until it becomes a thick brown paste and the oils exudes. Scrape it up and put it in a medium bowl.

Pound the fresh chillies and bird chilies, if using, until it is quite fine or pasty and throw that into the bowl too. Mix the tamarind paste with 2 tablespoons of water and strain and pour that into the bowl as well. Squeeze the limes, discard the seeds and pour that in as well. Stir the mixture until it is well combined, add salt to taste and adjust sourness with extra lime juice if necessary and sweetness with a tiny sprinkle of sugar if you like. Mix well.

Add the raw bean sprouts, sliced shallots and boiled cockles if using and toss well incorporating the dressing into the vegetables/cockles well. Taste for salt again and adjust. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature. YUMMMMM.

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