Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Dried shrimps are one of the most flavourful ingredients to have around in the kitchen cupboard. It is pungent and like all pungent ingredients it is packed with umami, like bonito flakes, like fish sauce, like belacan etc. A dish becomes irresistible when pounded dried shrimps are used as a flavour base. The list of dishes for dried shrimps is endless...stir fried veggies, fried rice, fried a sambal, as a filling, as a topping...hey-ho.....everything. 

Hub had just come back from a  trip to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah,  also referrred to as 'The Land Below The Wind' by the Suluks, a sea faring people from the Southern Philippines. So named because Sabah is located just below and lies just of reach of the merciless typhoons that hit and devastate parts of the Philippines every year. This name has been popularized by Agnes Keith's book, The Land Below The Wind.

Agnes Keith was an American born in Oak Park, Illinois. She married Henry G. Keith an Englishman who was appointed a conservator of forests and Director of Agriculture of North Borneo under the Chartered Company in the early 1900's.

Her chronicles of her life and unique experiences in the then  North Borneo as the wife of an English officer during the colonial era was submitted and won the prize in the non-fiction category in the 1939 Atlantic Monthly later to be published as a book named The Land Below The Wind. It received favourable reviews. Interestingly, one of her books 'Three Came Home' detailing the hardships and deprivations as POW under the Japanese became a bestseller and was turned into a motion picture.

Described by a friend ......"Mrs. AK has an unusual appearance, being six feet in height, very thin, with the stealthy lops of a red Indian. She dresses in startling and flamboyant fashion, in very bright colours while her hair is worn in two plaits,one over each shoulder, thus adding to a slightly Indian aura. " ~ excerpt from Wikipedia.

The bungalow in Sandakan, Sabah in which they spent many years as a family has been preserved by the state government.

In that sense Agnes Keith and Sabah have become inseperable just like what the best quality dried shrimps and the to-die-for whole, dried and salted red snapper is to The Land Below The Wind.

As I was saying, Hub had brought home a one kilogram packet of umami dried shrimps. Which is  a humongous amount but which I believe will be finished up in no time. Or ...perhaps not. I've got to give some away. Cholesterol my dear ...cholesterol.

This is what I made ~ Fired brinjals or eggplants in a dried shrimp sambal. Irresistible, to-die-for and totally...did I say  to-die-for? Yea....

The recipe ~

I had used the long brinjals or eggplants. They were sliced length ways and shallow fried. Then kept aside on kitchen paper while the sambal (paste, pesto)was being made. I also did not use belacan. After a frantic search in my cupboard I realized that I had run out of it. Waaaaaaaa.....

2 medium sized brinjals or eggplant
1/4 cup dreid shrimps, soaked in a little water to soften
1 inch square piece belacan (optional), slightly charred over a small flame
2-3 shallots
2 pips garlic
2 large red chillis 
2 dried chillis (optional) soaked in hot water for 15 minutes if using
1 lime
cooking oil

Shallow fry the sliced brinjals in some oil until they get soft and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper. Keep aside.

Pound dried shrimps, belacan, shallots, garlic, fresh chillies, dried chillies (if using) in a pestle and mortar until it becomes a fine paste. Salt may be added to ease the break down of the ingredients. But be careful of the amount of salt added because the shrimps and belacan are somewhat salty.

Pour *2-3 tablespoons of oil into a wok and saute the pounded ingredients until fragrant and until they turn a darker colour and looks slightly crusty on the surface. Another sign that it is done is when the oil seperates from the paste

* Add more oil if the mixture gets too dry. This dish is greasy.

Add salt to taste and a squeeze of lime juice. Lay the brinjals on a serving plate and scoop the of dried shrimps sambal over the top. Serve with freshly cooked white rice.

I'll be submitting this recipe for this month's Muhibbah Malaysian Monday. hosted by Shaz of Test with Skewer and 3 hungry tummies.


Olivia said...

Hi Needless to say.... what a wonderful dish... so comfortable and closed to the heart... thanks for sharing the recipe...

3 hungry tummies said...

Oh Zurin I love this dish! You should send as an entry to Muhibbah Malaysia Monday. Just grab a batch and link it back to us :)

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

So. Making. This!!! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Love this dish, Zurin!

PS: Are you even surprised that I coincidentally made sambal this afternoon? ;)

Quinn said...

Wangi la Zu...boleh bau dari Adelaide. Just wanna ask, if I were to add belacan, how much do i add? Say a small pingpong ball size would suffice?

When you say this:

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil into a wok and saute the pounded
ingredients until fragrant and until they turned a darker colour and looks slightly crusty on the surface.

My grandma calls this the 'pecah minyak' stage, not sure if you've heard of it but it essentially is like what you described and the oil just separates from the paste.

Zurin said...

Quinn, oh belacan is something u add as little or a much as you like. But a ping pong ball size! u must be kidding! even I wld not add that much...LOL...mayb half of that . what dyu say?

yes of course it is the pecah minyak stage.. I shd add that description in my recipe. thnax.muah.


seriously?! heheh we must be having the same vibes lately. Now dont tell me you also had durian.

busygran said...

Sooo sedap! Brinjals or even lady's fingers! Yum!

Angie's Recipes said...

Looks spicy and appetizing! I love eggplants prepared this way.

mysimplefood said...

Ohhhh nice!! I love this dish. When I was young, I don't eat brinjals, didn't understand why my mom likes it so much. But now, I love it!! :)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

I have always loved dried shrimps... I was using dried shrimps to prepare my Mee Rebus gravy.... and frying belachan with it... absolutely heavenly but my apt stunk the whole day!

pigpigscorner said...

I want some with a bowl of rice! dried shrimp is a mjust have in my kitchen!

Joy said...

I have never heard of this dish. It looks wonderful.

Federica Simoni said...

interessante questa preparazione!!deve essere molto gustosa e saporita!complimenti!ciao!

Sarah-Jane - said...

I need to find a Thai / Asian supermarket here. I've got no idea what a lot of your ingredients are.

I love shrimp - but have never had them dried. Do you need to soak them in water.... or are they chewy ?

Zurin said...

yes.. you are so right...u have to soak the shrimps in water for a few minutes until it softens a little and then crush or pound them. If it is not soaked then it is chewy. Some people like it chewy. If you saute it longer then it may get a little crunchy. Very nice but do be prepared for a very pungent but good(to me) aroma! but very tasty indeed. I hope u'lll find an asian store nearby. try a little first to see if you like it. Im guessing that it may be costly there.

but please dont try the belacan (shrimp paste) ..u will NOT like it....the all..

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

sambal with brinjal, a perfect combination, yummy!

petite nyonya said...

This is so sedap lah!

Nuts about food said...

I have half a bag of dried shrimp left over from another recipe and I had no idea what to make with it. It is not an ingredient I had used before and needed ideas. This sounds delicious. Thank you.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Zurin, you've convinced me to raid my mum's dried shrimp stash! :D

Linda said...

This looks so delicious! You and Ju have turned me on to so many things I have never seen. I have seen the dried shrimps at my Asian market...perhaps next time i will buy some and take the plunge!
Gorgeous pics Zurin!

Percicilan said...

Thanks for the recipe!

Elin Chia said...

Zurin...thanks for this recipe. Wanted to make this some days ago but never got to cook it. Now with this simple and yet delicious sambal I will cook this for sure. Thanks once again :)

~Lisa~ said...

I love dried shrimps! Healthy and flavorful! A total asian thing.

Jess said...

Hi Zurin, I am not able to find belachan where I am but do see shrimp paste in a jar (thai brand), can you advise if they are the same thing? (I am trying to make some sambal chili from your site as well.)

Zurin said...

Hi Jess,

yes it is the same thing. shrimp paste is belacan. :) Hope youll make sambal soon :)let me know if you have any questions .wl be glad to help:)

Jess said...

Thank you Zurin! :) I am all geared up for making the sambal tumis over the weekend (very excited!) I bought the shrimp paste but it is rather liquidy (light pink/purple colour) and not in a black hard block. Do you reckon I need to dry it first? And do I add the same amount as in the recipe?

Zurin said...

just use the same amount Jess. Im surprised its liquid but it should be A OK. No need to dry it first. use direct :))happy cooking!


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