Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
What is Belacan?
Belacan or Shrimp Paste is made from fermented ground shrimp, sun dried and either sold as a soft paste as in the picture here, or cut into blocks. It is not intended, nor customarily used, for immediate consumption, it has to be fully cooked prior to consumption, since it is raw.
Many recipes here on LinsFood use shrimp paste as an ingredient, see below.
Shrimp paste gives off a really pungent aroma – my kids run for their lives when I’m using it! They say it looks like poo and smells like poo! This is umami at its most pungent!
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!
It is easily found in major supermarkets in little jars.
Substitute for Belacan
Dried shrimp is a very good substitute, but you’ll have to use double the amount.
Salted shrimp, like the ones used in Korean and Filipino cooking make adequate substitutes.
A couple of anchovies in oil or brine, patted dry, mashed up, make an interesting, umami substitute. It won’t be the same flavour, but it will be delicious!
Vegetarian Substitute for Belacan
Shiitake! These mushrooms are a fantastic umami ingredient. Use them sliced up or ground as your recipe calls for. Dried shiitake are better, as the flavour and aroma is concentrated. Soak in water first.
Now, shall we get our aprons on?
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How to Dry Roast Shrimp Paste
- 1 Tbsp Shrimp paste as called for in the recipe you're making
- Place the shrimp paste in a small frying pan on medium-low heat to roast.
- Flatten it as much as you can to get as much of the surface area roasted as possible. Scrape off bits that stick on your spatula and add back to the pan.
- Roast it on the medium-low 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, and is a lighter brown than the uncooked paste.