Fermented shrimp paste is used widely throughout Southeast Asia to add depth and savouriness to dishes. It’s called belacan in Malay, terasi in Indonesian, and gapi in Thai; there are minor variations between the different preparations so it’s best to use a shrimp paste native to the cuisine you’re cooking.
Whether it’s belacan, terasi or gapi, shrimp paste is best toasted before being mixed with other ingredients. Heating it turns its rather offensively pungent odour into a richer, more pleasant (though still very strong) aroma.
To toast shrimp paste of any kind, place a thin piece onto a doubled thickness of foil and fold up the foil to enclose it. Place it in a heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat for about 5 minutes, turning every 30 seconds or so, until aromatic.
Watch the step-by-step video with Chef David Thompson.
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