Thai cuisine is full of surprises – none more than their amazing techniques with seafood and shellfish. Pipis are like small clams and are delicious served in a spicy sauce. This yellow sauce is just that, but also sweet and sour all in one hit. It works perfectly with the lovely salty flavour of the pipi and prawns. I ate a similar dish from a hawker stall in Thailand a couple years ago and have been talking about them ever since. Once you’ve pounded the yellow paste, this dish is extremely quick and easy to make (make the paste in advance and you can have this on a plate in about 10 minutes!). What I also love is that it looks and sounds pretty impressive too as you clatter the shells into the wok.
For the paste: (Makes more than you’ll need – freeze the rest for any Thai red curry)
20 small dried red chillies
1 lemon grass stalk (white only, chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh turmeric (or 1/2 teaspoon powdered)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (chopped)
1 candlenut (or macadamia nut)
1 shallot (chopped)
1 tablespoon garlic (chopped)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 tablespoons peanut oil
For the sauce:
1kg pipis (scrubbed clean)
6-8 large whole tiger prawns
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or peanut oil)
200ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
small bunch fresh coriander (chopped)
1 lemon (cut into wedges)
Soak the pipis in 2 litres of water mixed with 1/4 cup sea salt for 3-4 hours. Then drain and re wash in cold water. Set aside.
To make the paste, pound together all the ingredients, adding one by one in the order they are listed to a pestle and mortar until very smooth. Set aside.
Heat a wok with the coconut oil and when hot, add 1 heaped tablespoon of the spice paste and let it sizzle for 1 minute, stirring until aromatic. Pour in half the coconut milk and simmer again until the oil separates, about 1 minute. Pour in the remaining coconut milk and 100ml water and bring to a boil. Toss in the pipis and fish sauce and combine with the liquid. Put on a lid to the wok and shake the pan a couple of times. Let the pipis and prawns steam for about 4 minutes until the pipis are mostly all opened up (discard any that haven’t opened at all) and the prawns cooked through. Remove from the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice and serve immediately.
Tip onto a large serving platter and serve sprinkled with the coriander. Arrange some lemon wedges around for your guests to squeeze over as they wish.