What is belachan and what is it used for?
“Belachan” is a shrimp paste. It is primarily made from finely crushed shrimp and mixed with salt, and then ferment for a few days / weeks. It is made up of fermented shrimp, so you would expect it to have a very strong odor (and if you are not used to it, it can really be a quite offending smell).
I still remember when we were living in an apartment, my mum was over here on holiday she was “pangang” pan frying / grilling the balachan. One of the neighbours politely knocked at our door to ask whether we could cook this “offending” dish when they are at work. So yes, the smell of grilled belachan can be quite offensive if you are not used to it.
A good source to explain more about belachan is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimp_paste
How do you make belachan?
When the shrimp are off loaded from the boat, salt is added to the shrimp, then they are sundried on mats for several days for fermentation. After that, the mixture will be mashed again and sundried for a few more days. The process will be repeated 1 or 2 more times, until it turns into thick pulp, and later shaped into blocks for retail.
In Malaysia, I am used to the sundried version cut into rectangular blocks. So what you will need to do is cut it into small and thin pieces and grill it over a low heat.
However, it is not as convenient to “grill” the shrimp paste as before; firstly younger generations live in apartments/flats and secondly the odor of shrimp pastes from the grill is not that enticing.
Therefore, we have come up with a newer version of shrimp paste – the powder form – one that has already been panggang/grilled and is ready-to-use.
So what do you use belachan for?
Belanchan can be found mostly in southeast Asian curries and in sauces and stir fries, such as belachan kang kung, kerabu – asian salad, curries and many many more dishes.
One example is sambal belachan. Here is how to make to make sambal belachan using belachan powder.
Belachan powder (You can purchase it from our online store)
Belachan powder is wet belachan that is already grilled and ready to go. You can just add the belachan powder to the chilli to make sambal belachan. Check out the video below:
Sambal belachan is a hot sauce or condiment made from chilli and shrimp pastes. It is the basic building block for many beautiful Malaysian dishes. It is a condiment in Malaysian food stalls where they will have little containers of chilli paste on the table and customers will just add as much or as little as they want onto their dishes.
I will be showing you more dishes that use sambal belachan in future blog posts.
Enjoy your day and chat again soon.
> Where to purchase? You can purchase from our online store.
Belachan from Nyonyalicious Store: