Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sambal Belimbing Prawns

Some of you may ask, "Belimbing? What is that?" If you are from Malaysia, you may or may not know what Belimbing is. Even though it can be found locally, not many Malaysian would know of this fruit. It is an extremely sour fruit, that is used mainly in cooking, and is popular among the Nyonyas and Malays in Melaka and certain states in Malaysia. Belimbing tree can hardly be found in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor city where I lived. Mostly, these trees can be found in villages and smaller towns. I was fortunate enough to have one right in my own backyard!  Yes, I planted this Belimbing Tree about 12 years ago from the seeds of a ripe fruit. It has been faithfully fruiting regularly all these years. The fruit is long and oval, green when young and will turn yellow when ripe. They are at their best when the fruits are green and young, once they turn yellow, they will get all mushy and soft. And these fruits are extremely sour, they do not turn sweet when ripen, they are sour throughout. 

Belimbing Tree at my small little backyard. The tree is about 20 feet high.

The pretty red flowers that will produce wonderful, sour fruits!

Belimbing fruits. They grow along the branches and the stems that holds them together are extremely fragile. Just nudge with a slight force, and the whole bunch of fruits would drop to the ground. Are you familiar with Belimbing fruits?

The fruits are delicious when pickled! Very addictive! You may not have noticed it, but a similar photo of these fruits, is the profile picture of Kitchen Flavours. In fact, the very  first post of Kitchen Flavours was about this tree! This Belimbing Fruit Tree is very precious to me!  :) I have fond memories of my beloved late mom cooking delicious spicy dishes using these fruits during my childhood days in Melaka.

I used the fruits for cooking sambal dishes like the one below, in asam pedas which is very popular in Melaka, and I love them pickled, maybe one day, I'll do a post on that! 

Belimbing fruits

Now, let's get to my Sambal Belimbing Prawns :

1.Belimbing fruits and kaffir lime leaves, both from my garden.
2. Make a few tears by the side of the kaffir lime leaves right before cooking, the wonderful aroma of the leaves will be released even better.
3. Some of the ingredients, belimbing fruits, kaffir lime leaves, sliced onions, tomato wedges.

For the cooking instructions, refer to my recipe below.

A plate of Sambal Belimbing Prawns is ready for your tummy! We love to eat the belimbing, even my kids love the fruits. Even though this dish might be a little spicy for them, they would dig for the prawns and the belimbing, brush aside the gravy and eat with rice. Once the fruits are cooked, they will release the sourness right into the gravy, so the fruits are really not that sour after cooking. Usually for sambal dishes like this, some tamarind paste dissolved in water would be used, but I have omitted that, as the belimbing is sour enough.

Does it look spicy to you? Do you like spicy food? 

I'm submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest, Melaka (August) hosted by Yummylittlecooks and organized by Wendy of Table For 2.....Or More.

Sambal Belimbing Prawns
20 medium-sized prawns (shelled and deveined)
50-60gm dried chillies
300gm shallots, chopped
2 clove garlic, chopped
1" square piece belacan (shrimp paste)
12-15 belimbing fruits, cut into 2 or 3 sections
3 pieces kaffir lime leaves
1 medium tomato, sliced to wedges
1 medium onion, sliced to wedges
1/4 cup water, or more
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
2/3 cup cooking oil

  1. Cut dried chillies lengthwise to remove as much seeds as possible. Rinse them clean and place in a small pot, covered with cover and let it come to a boil. Let it boil, uncovered for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, let dried chillies soaked in hot water for about 10 minutes, then drain,. wash under cold tap water in a strainer, then leave to dry for about 15 minutes. 
  2. Blend the softened dry chillies, shallots, garlic and belacan (shrimp paste) together to a fine paste. 
  3. Marinate the shelled prawns with 1 tsp of sugar, stir well to combine. Keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in wok or saucepan. Add the blended paste and fry for about 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, add in kaffir lime leaves into the 5 minutes of frying, and keep stirring until paste is fragrant and separates from the oil. 
  5. Add in belimbing fruits and keep stirring for about 1-2 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup of water, stir, let it come to a simmer, stir for about 2 minutes to soften the belimbing, you may taste the sambal at this point, if it is not enough sour for you, some belimbing may be added. Then add in the prawns, tomato and salt to taste. A pinch of sugar may be added if you want a sweeter sambal.
  6. Let it boil and stir until prawns are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Dish out to a serving plate and serve with plain white rice. Enjoy!


  1. Very tempting prawn preparartion. Your Belimbing fruit and tree looks awesome. Lovely gardening.

    Cuisine Delights
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  2. Wow Joyce, this looks so delicious!Love all that spicy sauce on the prawns. I have never seen a belimbing before. I wonder if its ok to skip that and go with the other ingredients only?

    1. Hi Mich,
      Yes, you may omit the belimbing. Just add some tamarind paste to the water, you may need to use a little more water than 1/4 cup, depending on how thick you want the gravy to be. Use less dry chili if you want it less spicy. Happy Cooking!

  3. Interesting combo,never tried this belimbing ever in my cooking.

  4. I liked your post, we are always learning.
    Your dish seems to be delicious!

  5. Joyce! I was gonna try out this recipe! As a nice fellow blogger has kindly gave me some belimbing...but I didn't have kiffer lime leaves and red chilis today. :P yes, yours looks very good, just like I imagine how this yummy dish should be! Thanks for the recipe for my reference too, heehee. This will be my first submission to MFF! :)) * fingers crossed*

    1. You may omit the kaffir lime leaves if unavailable. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did! Make sure you use the belimbing soon, the fresh ones do not keep well, they will turn soft after just two days or so. Happy Cooking!

    2. Joyce thanks so much for the recipe! Just to let you know that I have made this dish and it is YUMMY! I managed to gather all the required ingredients so I guess I got it right, hahaha! Have posted it up as well. Thanks again! ;))


  6. Joyce , we call it "eba" in our local dialect :D We also use it as a souring agent in our soup(s) and stew ! My mouth actually waters looking at your belimbing ! Both the dish and that fruit ! lol I really miss that fruit !

  7. They look something between starfruits and zucchinis! amazing recipe, If I find them I will grab a bunch.

  8. I used to pluck these little sour fruits off the tree from my neighbour's backyard haha! My sister and I would eat them with sugar...quite delicious! But the way you cook it is even more delicious! I love it!

  9. Wonderful post Joyce! Oh my, this MFF thingy is killing with all the spicy food!

  10. Ya, I dare not bite it when it is still raw, but will be looking for it when cooked.SO yummy!!!!

    Thanks for joining MFF Melaka Month :)

  11. Everything just looks delicious. Great post!

  12. What a lovely tribute to your mother Joyce. I think planting that tree was so heartfelt and special. I'm so glad it has been visiting each year bearing fruit for you and your family.

    Your dish looks delicious. I have never heard of Belimbing before but I am delighted to make its acquaintance. Thank you so much for sharing, Joyce. I do love hot and spicy food too!!!

  13. Joyce, yoh, i didn't go back to your blog after leaving a message about this tree earlier & I thought, belimbing, belimbing is star fruit, hahaha, sorry, sorry! Yes, remember this tree & now I just "wake up!" I still remember I wrote to you about my late grandmother's start fruit tree in the old house, right?

  14. Joyce, its so hard to find belimbing. My Mum and Grandma used to slice them and put into our sambal belacan. It is also put into the kari ikan tongkol that goes with nasi dagang. Ayo, I miss the buah belimbing so much.

  15. i think jusco is selling belimbing..not all the time though. I think it's belimbing cos i remember seeing this word there. I must try cooking with belimbing one day and i believe your belimibing dish is truly appetising! hey, belimbing lady, i didnt realise about your profile picture!

  16. yummy yummmyyyyy! aiyoh....drooling!

  17. I am a bit confused about Belimbing, that one usually I saw is bigger size than that one you shown here, so they are two difference type of fruits?
    Anyway , I am drooling over your sambal, I love spicy foods.

    1. Hi Sonia,
      I think you meant the Starfruit? Starfruit is called Belimbing Besi in Bahasa and is sweet. The fruits pictured above is called Belimbing Buloh, but we always just call it Belimbing, these are extremely sour, used mainly in cooking.
      Thank you for stopping by!

  18. Hi Joy, I'm not familiar with the Belimbing fruit but after reading your description and seeing all your yummy recipes, I wish I could get my hands on some. I really miss the warm climate in Florida where we could find a few more rare ingredients. Colorado is lacking in that department! Hope you are doing well? Very busy I'm sure!

  19. Hi Joyce... I will be picking up some belimbing this evening from a friend & will definitely try your recipe... Sounds yummy! I have two friends in PJ with belimbing trees in their gardens & they always have loads to spare when the trees bear fruit. It looks like a lovely tree & I should try to grow it in my garden too. Any tips on how to go about it & how long did it take to grow & bear fruit?
    Thanks & regards
    Suzan :)