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Prawn Paste: A Flavourful Addition to Your Dishes

Prawn Paste: A Flavourful Addition to Your Dishes

If you're a fan of Southeast Asian cuisine, you've probably come across prawn paste before. This fermented condiment is made from finely crushed shrimp or krill mixed with salt and left to ferment for several weeks.

The result is a pungent, salty paste that's full of umami flavour.

Prawn paste is a staple ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, including curries, stir-fries, and marinades.

It's especially popular in Malaysia and Singapore, where it's known as belacan or terasi. In these countries, it's used to add depth and complexity to dishes, as well as a distinct umami flavour.

Key Takeaways

  • Prawn paste is a fermented condiment made from shrimp or krill and salt that's popular in Southeast Asian cuisine.
  • It's known for its pungent, salty flavour and umami richness.
  • Prawn paste is a staple ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, especially in Malaysia and Singapore, where it's known as belacan or terasi.

Prawn Paste Origins and Varieties

A variety of prawn paste jars displayed on a wooden table with labels indicating different origins and flavors

If you've ever tasted prawn paste, you'll know that it has a unique, pungent flavour that's hard to describe. This paste is a staple in many Southeast Asian cuisines, and it's used to add depth and umami to a wide range of dishes.

In this section, we'll explore the origins and varieties of prawn paste.

Traditional Production

Prawn paste is made by fermenting ground-up shrimp with salt and leaving it to dry in the sun. The resulting paste is rich in umami flavour and has a distinctive aroma.

Traditional prawn paste production is a time-consuming process that requires patience and skill. The paste is usually sold in small, tightly packed blocks that can be stored for months without refrigeration.

Regional Varieties

Prawn paste is known by many names in different parts of Southeast Asia. In Malaysia and Singapore, it's called belacan, while in Indonesia, it's known as terasi.

In Thailand, it's called kapi, and in the Philippines, it's known as bagoong.

Each region has its own unique variety of prawn paste, with subtle differences in taste, texture, and aroma.

In Hong Kong, prawn paste is used to make a popular dipping sauce for seafood dishes. The paste is mixed with soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar to create a sweet and sour sauce that's perfect for dipping steamed fish or prawns.

In Vietnam, prawn paste is used to flavour a wide range of dishes, from soups to stir-fries.

The paste is often mixed with garlic, chillies, and other spices to create a complex flavour profile.

In China, prawn paste is used in a variety of dishes, including hot pot and stir-fries.

The paste is often mixed with other ingredients, such as bean paste or oyster sauce, to create a rich and savoury flavour.

Culinary Applications of Prawn Paste

A bowl of prawn paste sits on a wooden cutting board, surrounded by fresh herbs, spices, and a mortar and pestle. A steaming pot of broth bubbles in the background

Prawn Paste in Cooking

Prawn paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes to enhance their flavour.

It is commonly used in Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly in zi char dishes, curries, and stir-fries.

To use prawn paste in cooking, you can either mix it with other ingredients to create a marinade or batter, or add it directly to the dish.

When using prawn paste in marinades or batters, it is important to balance its salty flavour with other ingredients such as sugar, Chinese wine, and pepper.

When deep-frying dishes like fried chicken or shrimp paste chicken, prawn paste can be added to the batter to give it a unique flavour and crust.

To achieve a smooth and evenly coated crust, mix prawn paste with plain flour, baking powder, sesame oil, and cold water.

Signature Dishes

One of the most popular dishes that uses prawn paste is har cheong gai, or prawn paste chicken.

This deep-fried chicken dish is marinated in a mixture of prawn paste, sugar, egg, pepper, and Chinese wine, then coated in a batter made with potato starch and corn flour.

The chicken is then deep-fried until crispy and served with sambal belacan or other dipping sauces.

Another popular dish is sambal udang, which is a spicy prawn dish that uses a combination of sambal, fermented shrimp paste, and sun-dried shrimp.

The prawns are stir-fried with the sambal mixture until cooked through, and served with steamed rice or as a side dish.

Prawn paste can also be used to add flavour to salads and other vegetable dishes.

For example, you can mix it with soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar to create a dressing for a cucumber salad, or stir-fry vegetables like broccoli and bok choy with prawn paste and garlic for a flavourful side dish.

When using prawn paste in your cooking, it is important to note that it has a strong and salty flavour, so a little goes a long way.

It can also be substituted with other fermented seafood products like fish sauce or dried shrimp if prawn paste is not available.

Frequently Asked Questions

A jar of prawn paste with a "Frequently Asked Questions" label on the front, surrounded by various seafood and cooking ingredients

What's the best recipe for making prawn paste at home?

Making prawn paste at home can be a time-consuming process, but it's definitely worth it if you want to enjoy the authentic flavour of this popular ingredient.

One of the best recipes for making prawn paste at home involves fermenting fresh prawns with salt and sugar.

You can find a step-by-step guide to making prawn paste at home on The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Shrimp Paste Recipe website.

Could you list the ingredients typically used in prawn paste?

The ingredients used in prawn paste vary depending on the recipe and the region, but typically include fresh prawns, salt, sugar, and sometimes rice flour or other ingredients for texture.

You can find a detailed list of ingredients used in prawn paste on The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Shrimp Paste Recipe website.

How do you prepare prawn paste chicken?

Prawn paste chicken, also known as har cheong gai, is a popular dish in Singapore and Malaysia.

To prepare it, you'll need to marinate chicken pieces in a mixture of prawn paste, garlic, ginger, and other spices for at least an hour.

After marinating, the chicken is typically deep-fried until crispy. You can find a recipe for prawn paste chicken on The Kitchen Community website.

What are some common uses for shrimp paste in Chinese cuisine?

Shrimp paste is a versatile ingredient that's commonly used in Chinese cuisine to add depth and umami flavour to dishes.

It's often used in stir-fries, marinades, and soups, and is a key ingredient in many popular dishes such as laksa, mee goreng, and har cheong fun.

You can find more information on the common uses of shrimp paste in Chinese cuisine on The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Shrimp Paste Recipe website.

Is shrimp paste considered a healthy addition to a diet?

While shrimp paste is a delicious addition to many dishes, it's important to note that it's high in sodium and should be consumed in moderation.

However, it does contain some nutrients, including protein, iron, and calcium. If you're looking for a healthier alternative to shrimp paste, you can try using fish sauce or soy sauce instead.

What's another term for shrimp paste that I might come across?

Shrimp paste is also known as belacan in Malaysia and Indonesia, and terasi in Indonesia.

In Thailand, it's called kapi, while in Vietnam, it's known as mắm tôm.