Burmese Balachaung (Onion & Dried Shrimp Condiment)

Burmese Balachaung (or balachung), sometimes also known as shrimp pickle, is a condiment that is bursting with umami notes of the sea, along with caramel, toasty flavours of the fried onions and heat from the chillies. Total yum!

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Burmese Balachaung

Burmese Balachaung

Balachaung is a spicy relish full of flavour made with onions, garlic, dried shrimp and chillies. There are different variations of this Burmese relish, depending on who’s making it, and also different levels of heat. Some people will add tomatoes, a touch of curry powder and even the odd local herb or two.

However, the main disparity is whether it’s a dry or a moist balachaung.

Dry Balachaung

In the dried version, each ingredient is fried to a crispy stage then drained. These dried ingredients are then tossed together before being used. This dry balachaung is perfect as a sprinkle on Asian dishes and can be stored in your pantry cupboard for a couple of months.

Moist Balachaung

The moist or wet version of balachaung is similar in appearance to many other spicy condiments we have here on LinsFood, like:

In this moist version, we cook everything in oil, much like we do in this Red Chilli Paste recipe, before storing it in the fridge for up to a month.

Balachaung Recipe

Time needed: 35 minutes

It’s a very straightforward recipe, as you’ll see in the description below, as well as in the recipe card at the end of this article.

  1. Prep Work

    We start off with slicing or chopping our ingredients.

  2. Fry the Onions

    Next we fry the onions until they are a lovely golden brown colour. This will take about 15 minutes.

  3. Add more Ingredients

    Now we add the garlic, ginger, dried shrimp and fish sauce. Cook for 3 minutes, adding the drained onion oil as necessary, if it gets dry.

  4. Add Chilli Flakes

    Finally, we add the chilli flakes and cook for 1 minute only. This is because we don’t want to burn the chilli flakes. For a hotter balachaung, you could even add some hot chilli powder here or use hot chilli flakes.

  5. Take off Heat

    We finish off our Burmese balachaung with a squeeze of lemon juice, stir, then store it in a sterilised jar.
    Burmese Balachaung, spicy dried shrimp relish in a glass jar

Burmese Balachaung, spicy dried shrimp relish on a spoon
Make it spicy or mild, it’s up to you

The Ingredients


  • Onions – we use quite a lot of onions in balachaung. In fact, it forms the base of this relish from Myanmar. I love using brown onions for this, but red also work well, with their sweeter flavour.
  • Garlic – once again, a fair amount of garlic, adding another layer of flavour.
  • Ginger – this isn’t always used in making balachaung. What can I say, I love the stuff, but am only using a small amount for a hint of sharp citrus.
  • Chilli Flakes – I’m only using chilli flakes in today’s recipe, for simplicity. I’ve used chopped fresh chillies and chilli powder, which are also traditional, depending on the cook.
    In fact, I made a small batch just before dinner last night with fresh chillies, as I have so many in the garden as we come to the end of what’s been a warm September.
    So if you happen to have lots of red chillies around, go ahead and do that. 1 handful or two, depending on the heat level and how spicy you want your balachaung to be.
Balachaung Ingredients

Dried Shrimp

In the traditional balachaung, dried shrimp is non negotiable. I have a couple of other balachaung recipes that don’t use dried shrimp; in fact one of them is vegan, but those are posts for another day!

So to make today’s dried shrimp balachaung, you need to get your hands on them. Any East Asian store will have them, or else, get them online. This is the brand I use these days that can be found on Amazon (affiliate link).

You can read more about dried shrimp here.

Spices and Flavourings

  • Turmeric – we use turmeric powder for yet another layer of aroma and flavour.
  • Fish Sauce – this adds saltiness as well as even more umami to our balachaung. No fish sauce? Just use salt, or buy it when you’re buying the dried shrimp!
  • Lemon juice – a little tartness completes this incredibly rich Burmese relish. You could also use amchur, which is a South Asian influence. Amchur is dried mango powder. Lime juice? Sure, why not? It’s what I used in last night’s batch.
Dried shrimp
Dried shrimp

Vegetable Oil

We use quite a lot of vegetable oil (250ml/1 cup) because we have a whole lot of onions to fry. As the onions soften, they shrink in size, and you may find that there is too much oil for your liking.

When the onions are done and before I add anything else, I sometimes drain some of the oil away, so the final result will be a drier mix. You can just scoop out 1 or 2 small ladles full or drain using a metal sieve.

This is purely a matter of preference. You can leave the oil in, if you like, for a wetter balachaung. You might ask why I didn’t start with less oil. That’s because we wouldn’t have had enough to fry all those onions.

If your balachaung is too dry because you’ve drained away too much oil, just ladle some back, no biggie.

The onion oil that we take out? Totally awesome in stir-fries. Yesterday, I made some rice with the oil, garlic and ginger. Absolutely delicious!

How to use Balachaung?

It’s a relish, or condiment or, you could even call it a sambal (Malay/Indonesian) or nam prik (Thai). As such, the traditional way to eat it would be on the side, with your rice. Or in your sandwich.

If you receive my Chilli newsletter (below), you will be very, very familiar with all the different ways that I use any sambal or condiment in my kitchen.

Go ahead and fill it in if you don’t want to miss out on all things SPICY!

So our Burmese Balachaung can be used:

  • straight up as a relish with rice and noodles (dry or soupy)
  • in sandwiches
  • on pizza, especially when it has an East or South East Asian slant
  • as a cooking ingredient – think stir-fries, omelettes, potatoes and even roast vegetables
Rice is always good with balachaung

How long will it Keep?

As with many of the condiments I make here on LinsFood, I suggest you keep your homemade Burmese balachaung in the fridge to prolong its shelf life. Stored this way, in a sterilised jar, it will last for a month, easily.

I know that sambals and condiments kept in the fridge will harden slightly, but it doesn’t really take them too long to get to room temperature and soften. So it’s no big deal, methinks, right?

Want to make it last longer? Keep reading!

Want to Gift this Balachaung?

If you want to turn your balachaung into a foodie gift, you’ll have to make sure that it lasts longer and at room temperature. This is what you can do:

  • First thing: increase the lemon juice to 4 Tbsp. Lime juice will work too. This will increase its acidity, thereby allowing you to preserve it.
  • You could even add 2 tomatoes to the recipe here for more acidity, allowing you to reduce the lemon juice to 3 Tbsp.
  • Then, give your jars a water bath. If truth be told, I just turn the jars upside down while they’re still hot to seal them when I make it for myself. But you don’t want to take the chance! So give it a water bath.
  • When your jars have cooled down and are dry, write the best before date on the jar. They are safe to be kept at room temperature, somewhere dark (like your pantry cupboard) for 6 months. Once opened, store in the fridge.

I promise to do a water bath post soon. Been a long time coming, I know, I’m sorry! Just do a Google search in the meantime.

And there you have it, let me know what you think! Shall we get our aprons on?

If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!😉

If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.

Lin xx

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Burmese Balachaung, spicy dried shrimp relish in a glass jar

Burmese Balachaung

Burmese Balachaung recipe, a delicious onion and dried shrimp relish that is the perfect condiment on your dinner table.
5 from 9 votes
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Course: Condiments
Cuisine: Burmese
Keyword: chilli, foodie gift, myanmar, relish, spicy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 12 (makes 1 x 400ml jar)
Calories: 125kcal
Author: Azlin Bloor


  • Knife
  • Chopping board
  • Food chopper
  • wok or deep frying pan
  • ladle
  • metal sieve to drain the hot oil
  • bowl
  • jar for storing


  • 5 medium onions pre peeled weight about 700g/1.5 lb
  • 10 medium cloves garlic about 60g/2 oz pre peeled weight
  • 2.5 cm ginger
  • 100 g dried shrimp
  • 250 ml vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 Tbsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice


Prep Work

  • Peel, halve, then slice the onions thinly, but don't worry too much about it.
  • Peel the garlic and drop into your food chopper.
    Peel and halve the ginger, and drop into the chopper.
    Then pulse the chopper a few times to get a coarse mix. Tip out into a bowl.
  • Add the dried shrimp to the same, unwashed chopper, and grind a floss-like state.

Let's get Cooking

  • Heat the oil in a wok on medium heat and fry the onions for 15 minutes, until they are a deep brown colour but before they burn! If your onions are browning to quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low or even low.
    Keep stirring every 2-3 minutes so the ones at the bottom don't burn.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, dried shrimp, turmeric and 1 Tbsp of the fish sauce to the wok. Stir, then reduce the heat to low and fry for 3 minutes.
  • Finally add the chilli flakes, stir well and cook for just 2 minutes, as we don't want them to burn and turn bitter. This is especially important if you are using chilli powder in your balachaung (see article, under ingredients).
    Taste and add more fish sauce if necessary.
  • Take it off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
    If you're using amchur add it with the chilli flakes.
    Transfer to a sterilised jar and leave it to cool to room temperature before storing it in the fridge.
    See article about making this longer to give as a gift.
    Burmese Balachaung, spicy dried shrimp relish in a glass jar


Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 457mg | Potassium: 138mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 792IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 1mg
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2 thoughts on “Burmese Balachaung (Onion & Dried Shrimp Condiment)”

  1. 5 stars
    You’re just awesome Lin. Thanks I’m totally on this! I only waited a couple of months for you to deliver!

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