Shrimp Paste is made from fermented ground shrimp, sun dried and either sold as a soft paste as in the picture, or cut into blocks; not intended, nor customarily used, for immediate consumption, it has to be fully cooked prior to consumption, since it is raw.
Shrimp paste gives off a really pungent aroma – my kids run for their lives when I’m using it!
It’s a common ingredient in so many South East Asian dishes and has many names:
- belachan in Malay
- terasi in Indonesian
- kapi in Thai
Quite often, it’s dry roasted before being used. You have to have your windows open for a long time for the really strong and overpowering (I love it!) smell to dissipate!
A popular Malay condiment known as sambal belacan uses this and red chillies as its main ingredients.
It is easily found in major supermarkets in little jars.
Dry Roasting Shrimp Paste
You can do this in the oven or on the stove, which is my preferred method. My granny used to place it on a thin metal trivet and roast it over the gas flame on her stove.
I use a small frying pan, and much like roasting dry spices, place the shrimp paste in the pan and flatten it as much as you can (bear in mind, it can be a little sticky). You flatten the paste to get as much of the surface area roasted/browned as possible.
Roast it on the medium heat for about 5 minutes, you’ll start getting a really strong odour, and when you think you can’t take it anymore, it’s done! But seriously, if you’re not sure, give it 10 minutes, keeping a close eye on it, take it off before it burns, when it looks nicely charred. Use a butter knife to scrape it off your spatula and back in the frying pan