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Shrimp Sambal Tea Sandwiches


Do you ever create something (arguably) edible and can’t decide whether it’s genius or disgusting? I just possibly made the most grostesque yet edible sandwich that I wouldn’t recommend anyone replicate.

I was going to make shrimp sambal tea sandwiches from Singapore Heritage Food over Christmas break but never got around to it. I figured it would be a good in-the-office-alone meal. I share close quarters with three others who don’t strike me as appreciative of funky odors. Yesterday, I felt self-conscious about the Sichuan snapper and water spinach leftovers I ate at my desk. Fish isn’t work-friendly.

Last night I tackled this recipe because I was afraid the loaf of white bread I’d bought for the purpose was probably on the verge of molding. All you really do is grind dried shrimp, shallots, fresh and dried chiles and then fry in oil and season with salt and sugar. Yet, I botched it somehow.


They include a photo, which makes the filling look crimson and moist. I had an idea in my head of how it would taste; hot, sweet and kind of sticky-jammy like a Thai paste that I used to keep in the freezer. But it was nothing like that. As you can see, everything's salmon-colored and crispy.

The dried shrimp didn’t get soft enough or break down flossy enough in my mini food chopper (I’d never heard meat referred to as floss until I went to Malaysia) so rather than a puree I had more of chunky blend of shrimp jerky. And when cooked with dried and fresh chiles and shallots, nothing really melded. The flavor wasn’t bad, but the consistency was loose to hold together between bread.

I needed a binder that wasn’t high fat. Mayonnaise makes me wary on a good day and I didn’t have any in the fridge, anyway. Greek yogurt to the rescue. Why not? It’s no weirder than a tuna salad sandwich, really. I was going to add lime juice and the tanginess sufficed. However, the yogurt dulled the hotness so I added a blob of jarred sambal. Nice.


The thing is that the paste tastes much better eaten plain than on bread. It was like starchy dryness compounded with salty dryness. And now I have a headache, which I'd like to blame on the sandwich. Oh, and I completely stunk up the apartment and the hallway. I’m starting to think that I’m immune to fishy, fermented scents (though not stinky tofu) and a destroyer of recipes.

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