Burmese Dried Shrimp Relish (Balachaung)
This dish may be crisp and dry, or it may be oily.
250 g/8 oz/2 cups dried shrimp
20 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
or 3 tablespoons dried garlic flakes
185 g/6 oz/1 cup thinly sliced shallots,
or 60 g/2 oz/1 cup crisp-fried sliced shallots
375 ml/12 fl oz/1 1/2 cups peanut oil
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup sesame oil
ground dried chillies to taste
2 teaspoons salt
2 cm/1 in square of dried shrimp paste
1/2 cup vinegar
Put the dried shrimp into a food processor and process with steel blade to a floss. If using fresh garlic and shallots, fry them separately in heated peanut and sesame oil, not hurrying the process, until golden. They will become crisp as they cool. The best balachaung I have tasted was made by my mother and grandmother who did it the old-fashioned way, peeling and slicing shallots and garlic cloves. For ease one may use dried garlic flakes, but take care to keep the heat low and lift them out in a wire strainer before they darken, otherwise they will become bitter. Drain on paper towels. Pour off 1 cup of oil if you prefer a relish that is not too oily. (Bottle and use as flavouring.)
Reheat remaining oil and fry the prawn floss for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chillies mixed with the vinegar, salt and shrimp paste. Fry until crisp, stirring constantly. Allow to cool completely before mixing in the fried onion and garlic, stirring to distribute evenly. Store in an airtight jar and it will keep for months.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)