Market Mondays, Cameron Highlands Edition: Corn, Flat Bean, and Shrimp Stew

22 Aug

Tom and I went for a short getaway this past weekend in the Cameron Highlands, a former hill station about 2 1/2 hours from KL. Back when Malaysia (then Malaya) was a colony, Cameron Highlands was one of those mountain retreats where the British would go to escape the tropical heat and pretend that they were still in cold, damp England. Today, it’s where tourists (both Malaysian and non) do the same thing. Almost all of the hotels are built in a faux-Tudor style, and there are umpteen places you can stop for tea and scones, operating side by side with Indian restaurants and Chinese hot pot outlets.

Because the climate is temperate, Cameron Highlands is also an agricultural hotspot. The mountains are covered with tea plantations, and the farms are famous for strawberries and other things you can’t grow elsewhere in Malaysia, because it’s too hot.

The panoramic tea plantations of Cameron Highlands

This means that a lot of what’s on sale at the farm stands would be familiar to your average American: sweet corn, beets, broccoli. (Malaysians love corn. I’ve decided that when I implement my plot to introduce real Mexican food to Malaysia, I’m starting with elotes.) We loaded up with some corn and beans (as well as a few more exotic selections that you’ll be reading about later this week). I decided to start with the corn tonight, since it loses its sweetness so quickly.

Cameron Highlands corn and beans

I turned to Gojee for inspiration. (Gojee is a new site that compiles a bunch of recipe blogs and lets you search based on what you want to use and what you have on hand. It would be awesome if it weren’t kind of slow, but I think that’s the fault of my Internet connection.) I adapted Matt Greco’s corn and clam stew recipe, which sounded both tasty and relatively unfussy. I was going to use lala, or bamboo clams, but they were pretty picked over, so I opted for (shell-on) shrimp; I didn’t have any bourbon (and wouldn’t be using it for cooking, anyway, since it’s basically impossible to buy in Malaysia), so I replaced that with the Jose Cuervo Black (it’s an aged tequila that’s more like whiskey) that was a house gift from someone, and used canned tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes (which, again, are too pricey to use in cooking). Since the flat beans reminded me of Romano beans, which are usually served braised, I thought they might do well in a stew, so in they went. I also threw in some fresh marjoram and oregano that I had left over from another dinner. (Looking back at the recipe, I realized I also added a clove of garlic and some shallots. Because, really? No garlic or onion?)

Served with a crusty baguette, it’s a hearty one-dish meal. The key ingredients are the fresh corn — the Cameron Highlands corn was incredibly sweet — and the smoked paprika. You could omit the shrimp and the bacon altogether to make it vegetarian, and it would still have plenty of flavor from the corn and the paprika. If you can’t find flat beans, regular green beans would work, as long as you cut the cooking time.

The finished product

Here’s the adapted recipe. I think I made enough changes that I can post my version here.

Corn, Flat Bean, and Shrimp Stew (adapted from Matt Greco’s recipe)
(serves 2, with leftovers)


3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large shallots or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 cup sliced flat or green beans
3 ears corn, shucked and cut from the cobs
6 extra-large shrimp, shell-on, deveined
1 16-oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
1/2 cup of stock of your choice (I used shrimp, since I had it in the freezer)
half of one lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons aged tequila
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, such as basil, marjoram, or oregano


  1. Place a large, deep heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned. (Use about a tablespoon of oil if omitting bacon.) Add onions and garlic and cook until limp and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in half of the paprika and cook for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the beans and cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the corn and cooking for another 2 minutes. 
  4. Add shrimp and cook until the shells get a bit shiny and pink, but are not cooked through, about 1 minute.
  5. Add tomatoes, the broth (a bit at a time — make sure the stew remains thick), the lemon juice, tequila, and the rest of the paprika. Simmer on low heat until the shrimp have cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes for shelled shrimp and 5 minutes for shell-on.
  6. Add the herbs, stir, and taste for seasoning. Serve with crusty bread and a salad, if you’re feeling ambitious.

One Response to “Market Mondays, Cameron Highlands Edition: Corn, Flat Bean, and Shrimp Stew”


  1. Tastes Like Burning « Straight Out of Kampung - August 25, 2011

    […] of our vegetable haul from the Cameron Highlands was a bag of hot peppers. “These are really hot,” the auntie told us, and our reaction […]

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