April 21, 2012

Steamed Shrimp Paste Squid 蝦醬蒸鮮魷

chinese, recipe, shrimp paste, squid, steamed squid, 蝦醬蒸鮮魷
By Published: 2012-04-21
Ah, shrimp paste!  Grayish pink to muddy brown colored paste made of fermented mashed up shrimp.  It looks awfully homely. And what a smell!  When people are cooking with shrimp paste you can smell its distinctive smell a block away. 

When my 老公 was a boy growing up in Canada, his family decided one day to cook a yummy shrimp paste dish for their dinner.  The smell of their delicious stir fry was so strong and I guess so foreign that one of their neighbors took serious offense and threatened to call the police on them. Yessiree bob, that's right, almost arrested over a smell.  What that surely on most other occasions friendly neighbor needed, in my opinion, was a proper dose of perspective.

For example, from my perspective, the smell of shrimp paste wafting through the air makes my stomach clutch in a sudden famish of hunger.  It is a strong smell, yes, but very fragrant and full of the promise of its distinctive taste and aroma. So once your food perspective is transformed by the delicious taste memory of shrimp paste, the strong smell turns from offensive to tantalizing.  You just have to give shrimp paste a fair chance.  

It is interesting to note how many other fermented things, like anchovies or fermented bean curd for example, have a very strong taste and smell by themselves (because of the fermentation) but when cooked with other foods can instantly make a so-so dish spectacular.  And so it is with shrimp paste.

chinese, recipe, shrimp paste, squid, steamed squid, 蝦醬蒸鮮魷

We have found that the best shrimp pastes are the ones that are made from the small guys that sell in the little mom and pop shops as versus the ones you can find at the supermarket.  Maybe the supermarket ones have to much preservatives or something.  Not that this kind of stuff would need preservatives I would think as it is heavily salted already.  

The shrimp paste pictured above is made in Tao O, which is a quaint fishing village in Hong Kong that traditionally hand produces these kinds of products.  We found it in our little neighborhood organic mom and pop shop.  

Another really excellent shrimp paste we found was from Macau.  We were just walking around Taipa and discovered a shop where they were actually making shrimp paste.  I mean, there were urns and the bamboo mats full of the stuff drying in the hot sun outside the little shop.  Very cool...  Ah, that shrimp paste was really tasty!

This Steamed Shrimp Paste Squid, or 蝦醬蒸鮮魷, is reminiscent of the delicate steamed squid dish you can have at Chinese Dim Sum, expect that shrimp paste is added.  The steamed squid is tender and juicy with a wonderful gently clinging flavor coating of shrimp paste, ginger and garlic.  And it looks much fancier than it is with the squid morsels all turned out into charming curls.  (The squid curls during cooking due to the light crisscrossing that you do from the inside side of the squid, i.e., the side formerly facing the squid guts).  

For the freshest squid you must of course go to the wet market.  When cleaning the squid remember to remove the cartilage, the pinkish skin (just grab a corner and pull), the teeth and the eye (ugh, kinda gross but we soldiers of good food march bravely on!).
Steamed Shrimp Paste Squid Recipe

Prep time:    Cook time: 
  • 3 medium squid, cleaned
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 4 slices ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tbsp potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 1 tbsp spring onions chopped to rounds

Paste Mixture  - to be mixed together before you start the stir fry


Lay the cleaned out squid tube and make one cut from tip down so that the squid can lie flat.  With a sharp knife trace halfway through the squid with a criss cross diagonal (i.e. make a diamond pattern) on inside side of squid  (it will curl up beautifully if you do this). Cut into bite size pieces.  Set aside.

Heat wok, pour in oil when wok is hot.  Throw in ginger, garlic and stir fry 10 secs until fragrant.  Put in shrimp paste, lower heat to medium and stir another 10 secs and then pour in the Paste Mixture.  Stir.  After 20 secs or so it should be a somewhat thick paste.  Remove paste to a bowl to cool.  

Put squid into dish used for steaming.  Mix the cooled paste with squid throughly and then mix in the corn starch.  Steam over high heat for 4 minutes.  Sprinkle with spring onions and serve.



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