It seems a week can’t go by without a new pop-up eatery or must-try tapas bar opening in our fair city. Spare a thought, however, for the stalwarts, the restaurants that manage to stay reliably delicious, year in, year out. Chameleon is one such establishment. The Indonesian-inspired restaurant in the heart of Temple Bar has been around for donkey’s years (19 to be precise), but that didn’t stop them nabbing the Best World Cuisine 2013 award at this year’s Irish Restaurant Awards. We went in for a peek and a chat and weren’t disappointed. Owner Kevin O’Toole demonstrated how pastes and sauces are whizzed up from scratch in-house, and how easy it is to recreate the flavours of Indonesia at home. Not convinced? Try this totally do-able recipe and see for yourself. If that sounds like too much trouble, head over to Fownes Street and make a bee-line for their Spice Bar, which offers tapas-style Asian treats.
Marinated whole tiger prawns
You can use peeled prawns also, and Chameleon also use this marinade for their crispy squid. If using squid, first score the flesh in lines or criss-crossed, coat the squid in the marinade and refrigerate for a few hours before dusting with the flour mix and deep-frying.
12 large tiger prawns, in the shell
100g rice flour
100g plain flour
500ml oil (rapeseed or vegetable), for deep-frying
For the marinade
1 tablespoons dried terasi (dried shrimp paste, available in Asian supermarkets)
10g fresh tumeric
30g fresh garlic
30g fresh ginger
10 red chillies, de-seeded
1.Roast the terasi at 150ºC for 20–30 minutes until dry and crunchy. This will remove all moisture and any impurities. Alternatively, dry-roast on a dry non-stick pan on low heat for about 10–15 minutes, tossing continuously to avoid sticking. Allow to cool fully.
2. Blitz the roasted terasi together with the remaining marinade ingredients. Strain excess liquid from the paste and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
3. To devein the prawns, cut down the spine of the prawn with a sharp knife to cut through the shell and a little of the flesh. Remove the grey vein and discard. Rinse, pat dry and rub the exposed flesh with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight or for at least a few hours to let the flavours develop.
4. Dust each prawn in a half/half mixture of rice flour and plain flour. Heat the oil to 180ºC, and deep fry the prawns until just cooked – about one to three minutes each depending on the size of the prawn. Drain well, season with salt and serve with a slice of lime and a glass of chilled white wine.