Shrimp paste is a common ingredient in most SEA (South East Asia) cooking. Most commonly used in a curry dish, stir fry or make into chili paste. It has a different name in different part of SEA. In Malaysia, it is known as “Belachan”. Belachan is made from fermented ground shrimp, sun dried and then cut into fist-sized rectangular blocks. It is normally toasted before use in cooking, or pounded with chili to make a fragrant chili paste, known as “sambal belachan”.
I remember growing up with the smell of belachan in mum’s kitchen. It has a strong and pungent smell. Mum would toast the raw belachan on a wire mesh on top of a portable clay stove, with small pieces of hot, burning charcoal at the bottom. In those days, mum could buy the belachan raw from the wet market. Imagine walking through the market with the a giant mount full of belachan wafting through the air. Phew! Nowadays, belachan is airtight, wrapped and sealed. You can even sneaked a few blocks in your suitcase on arrival at the airport without the Australian beagle “sniffling” dog smelling the raw belachan in your suitcase. Just kidding. Don’t even attempt this or you will get caught, or stink your clothes for a few days! Even though it is airtight, I can still smell the raw belachan if placed on my nose tip. Belachan is easily available in most Asian supermarket in western countries, including Australia.
I have to admit that I don’t particularly fancy the smell of raw belachan, but I love the smell once it is cooked in a dish. Tonight I have decided to use a pinch of toasted belachan in my king prawn dish with curry leaves. I can still smell the belachan on my shirt after cooking, and even on my dog’s fur! 🙂
2 – 4 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 bird eye chili
1 sprig curry leaves
A dozen king prawns
A pinch of belachan
1. In a hot pan, add one cup of cooking oil
2. Toss in king prawns and quickly stir fry until cooked. Removed
3. Toss in chopped garlic, shallots, chili, curry leaves and belachan. Fry until fragrant
4. Return cooked prawns. Add 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and 1 tablespoon oyster sauce. Toss the prawns a few times to evenly coat the prawns with the sauce. Do not overcook the prawns. Remove and plate them
This is an easy and simple recipe. Yet extremely tasty and delicious. Hope you enjoy the recipe.