Artisanal Shrimp Paste 廣興隆蝦醬 | Chinese Recipes at TheHongKongCookery.com

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As promised, our post on the amazing artisan shrimp paste that we discovered in Macau.  

We recently returned to Macau for a short trip.  It was our first time out of Hong Kong in 3 years!  We had missed Macau in the interim, its charming streets, gaudy casinos, the grand old buildings from another time… There was so much to rediscover!

But you know what we quickly realized that we had missed most of all?  That’s right, it was the food!!

So we ate and ate.  And got slightly chubby.  So much yummy food!  Food is life!  Even in the midst of this feast we had to stop by and pick up a jar of our favorite artisanal fermented shrimp paste: 廣興隆 Kong Hing Loong Shrimp Paste.  It’s simply the best shrimp paste we’ve ever had.

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You can find Kong Hing Loong Shrimp Paste being made and sold from a quiet shop located in the old Macau neighborhood of Taipa 氹仔.  (My hubby’s mother actually grew up in these very streets!)  An unprepossessing shop front and yard looks out over what used to be the sea but now is a bustling street.

The very first time we stumbled on this place was completely by accident.  Years ago a stay in Macau had us in Taipa for a taste of Taipa’s famous pork chop buns 豬扒包.  After a most satisfying porky snack attack we wandered on.  

Next door we spied a most interesting sight: a front yard full of large terracotta pot after pot filled to the brim with a purple pink mash, all soaking in the sun rays.  Upon further investigation we discovered that these were vats of drying shrimp paste!  And thus we bought our first jar of Kong Hing Loong Shrimp Paste 廣興隆蝦醬.  

Back at home in HK we tried it and, ahhh, what can I say…shrimp-tastic happiness…

Perhaps it was those very pots that marked the beginning of my curiosity towards and now growing obsession with fermentation.

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And what is shrimp paste 蝦醬, you might be asking?  Well, it’s basically crushed small shrimps left to ferment, salted, then mashed and dried in the sun.  It has a very strong and distinct smell and flavor that is reminiscent of fish sauce and anchovies.  Also similarly it is used to both salt and add umami flavoring to cooked food.  More on the taste later.

Shrimp paste is sold as either as a paste or a block and is a flavoring used traditionally all over South Asia.  It can be found in Asian grocery stores and at the HK wet markets.  

Artisanal, Shrimp Paste, 廣興隆蝦醬, Kong Hing Loong Shrimp Paste, fermented, Macau,handmade, traditional

The history of the Kong Hing Loong shrimp paste shop (Chinese name is 廣興隆蠔油蝦醬) is quite fascinating.  The shop has been around for 3 generations, all in the Pong 潘 family, surviving many very tough times.  That’s over 100 years!  

The photo above shows the shop in the past.   See all the pots of shrimp paste drying in the front yard?  Compare it to the color photo above that we took on the recent trip.  It’s the same shop but so different! The pots were not out that particular day, though.  More history details of the shop can be found here and here (articles in Chinese).

As I mentioned before, my hubby’s mother grew up in Taipa.  After our trip he mentioned this shop to her.  It turns out that as a little girl she used to play in that very area with all the children in the neighborhood, including some of the children from the shrimp paste shop!  Isn’t that a cool connection?!

Artisanal, Shrimp Paste, 廣興隆蝦醬, Kong Hing Loong Shrimp Paste, fermented, Macau,handmade, traditional

The taste of shrimp paste is intense: concentrated shrimpiness with hints of crab put through a filter of pungent, funky and salty.  The result is ooh so packed with a fierce and strong umami!  It’s not meant to be tasted by itself but rather to be paired with cooked food to achieve unique heights of flavor and aroma.  All of which is why shrimp paste is such a popular and beloved condiment.

Why do we call Kong Hing Loong shrimp paste an artisanal shrimp paste?  Well, Kong Hing Loong makes shrimp paste by hand in the traditional time consuming way, producing a smooth paste that is foremost intensely packed with flavor and umami.  The saltiness comes in second.  

Comparatively mass produced shrimp pastes on the market today are salty first with the flavor hiding underneath all the salt.

According to Paulo Pong 潘健康, the owner of Kong Hing Loong, the overt saltiness of the mass produced shrimp pastes is due to the fact that they do not spend the time to sun dry the shrimp paste after fermentation.  That and all the attention to details that define the loving work of an ‘artisan’ is why this shrimp paste is so special. 

Read more about the process here (article in Chinese).
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This is a photo inside the old shrimp paste shop.  Isn’t it wonderful?  So full of everything, flooded with the warmth of times past.  A feeling of slow, simple and good.  And there is Mr. Paulo Pong in the front there, still spry and working after all these years.  Thank you for your beautiful artisanal shrimp paste, Mr. Pong!

If you happen to go to Macau (lucky you!) find Mr. Pong at his shop here:  

Shop name: 廣興隆蠔油蝦醬 

                    (translation:Kong Hing Loong Oyster Sauce Shrimp Paste- the shop doesn’t officially have                      an English name.)

Address:    氹仔巴波沙總督前地20號 

                  20, Largo Governador Tamagnini Barbosa, Taipa, Macau.  

If you can’t get to Macau but want to try this artisanal shrimp paste for yourself there are a lot of folks selling it online.  (I only realised this when I was researching this article.)  But you’ll have to search in Chinese and I’m not sure about how far the jars can be shipped, etc.  This stuff is worth chasing done, tho’, if you’re a shrimp paste fan.  Enjoy!

Cooking with Shrimp Paste at The Hong Kong Cookery:

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