Shrimp paste is a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cuisines, known for its rich and robust flavor. But what happens when you open a jar of shrimp paste and don’t use it all at once?
Does it go bad?
In this article, we’ll explore the shelf life of shrimp paste and how to properly store it to ensure its freshness. From the fermentation process to the different names it goes by in various regions, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this beloved condiment.
So, let’s dive in and find out if shrimp paste really does go bad.
Does Shrimp Paste Go Bad?
Shrimp paste is a fermented condiment made from finely crushed shrimp or krill mixed with salt. It is commonly used in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cuisines as a seasoning substitute for salt. One of the most common questions people have about shrimp paste is whether or not it goes bad.
The good news is that shrimp paste has an extremely long shelf life. The fermentation process it undergoes means that unopened shrimp paste can last for years without going bad. However, once you open a jar of shrimp paste, it will start to lose its freshness over time.
If you store the opened jar of shrimp paste in the refrigerator and tightly close the lid when not in use, it can last for several months to a year without going bad. However, if you leave the jar open or don’t seal it properly, the shrimp paste will start to dry out and lose its flavor.
It’s important to note that shrimp paste should always be cooked before consumption and used sparingly as it has a potent flavor. The intense odor of the paste will dissipate upon cooking, and it will keep for an extremely long time, particularly if it is refrigerated in an air-tight pack.
What Is Shrimp Paste?
Shrimp paste, also known as prawn sauce, gapi, kapi, trassi or bagoong, is a fermented condiment commonly used in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cuisines. It is made by grinding fermented shrimp or krill with salt and then fermenting the mixture for several weeks. The resulting paste can be sold in its wet form or sun-dried and cut into rectangular blocks or sold in bulk. Shrimp paste ranges in color from pale pink to deep reddish brown and has a pungent, salty, and fishy flavor that adds depth and complexity to dishes. It is an essential ingredient in many curries, sauces, sambal, and dips for fish or vegetables. Shrimp paste has a long history dating back to the eighth century and is still an important industry in Southeast Asian countries. It is a versatile ingredient that can be used sparingly to add an umami-rich flavor to a wide range of dishes.
The Fermentation Process
The fermentation process is what gives shrimp paste its unique flavor and long shelf life. To make shrimp paste, small shrimp or krill are mashed into a paste, which is then mixed with salt. The mixture is then buried in the ground for several months to allow it to decay and ferment.
After several months, the paste is dug up and fried before being pressed into small blocks. Alternatively, the shrimp may be salted and dried in the sun on raised platforms to concentrate the flavor and prevent mold growth. The dried shrimp are then mashed into a pulp, which is pressed into a paste and allowed to ferment again.
This process of pressing and fermenting is repeated several times before the paste is allowed to dry and cut into blocks for sale. The entire process takes a few weeks to complete.
The fermentation process not only gives shrimp paste its unique flavor but also helps to preserve it. The high salt content and low moisture content of the paste prevent bacteria from growing, making it safe to consume even after years of storage.
Shelf Life Of Shrimp Paste
The shelf life of shrimp paste varies depending on whether it is unopened or opened. Unopened shrimp paste can last for years without going bad due to the fermentation process it undergoes. However, once opened, the paste will start to lose its freshness over time.
If you properly store opened shrimp paste in the refrigerator and tightly close the lid when not in use, it can last for several months to a year without going bad. However, if the jar is left open or not sealed properly, the paste will start to dry out and lose its flavor.
It’s important to note that shrimp paste should always be cooked before consumption and used sparingly due to its potent flavor. The intense odor of the paste will dissipate upon cooking, and it will keep for an extremely long time, particularly if it is refrigerated in an air-tight pack.
In terms of freezing, roasted belacan can be stored in a jar in the freezer for up to three months. Simply scrape out as much as you need from the container with a metal spoon when you need it, then return the remainder to the freezer.
While shrimp paste has a long shelf life, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in color or smell. If the paste starts to turn a darker color or has an off-putting odor, it’s best to discard it and get a fresh jar. Overall, properly stored shrimp paste can last for a long time and be used to add flavor and protein to a variety of dishes.
Signs Of Spoilage
While shrimp paste has a long shelf life, it can still spoil if not stored properly or used past its expiration date. Here are some signs of spoilage to look out for:
1. Foul Odor: One of the most noticeable signs of spoiled shrimp paste is a strong, unpleasant odor. If the paste smells rotten, sour or has a pungent ammonia-like odor, it’s likely gone bad and should be discarded.
2. Discoloration: Another sign of spoilage is a change in color. If the paste has turned brown, gray or green, it’s an indication that bacteria may have started to grow in it.
3. Mold: Check for any signs of mold on the surface of the paste. If you see any white or black spots, it’s time to throw it away.
4. Texture: Spoiled shrimp paste may have an unusual texture. It could be too dry or too wet and slimy. If the texture seems off, it’s probably best to avoid using it.
5. Taste: Finally, if the shrimp paste tastes off or has a bitter flavor, it’s a clear indication that it has gone bad and should not be consumed.
Proper Storage Techniques
To ensure that your shrimp paste stays fresh and flavorful for as long as possible, it’s important to store it properly. Here are some tips for storing shrimp paste:
1. Keep it in an air-tight container: Once you open the jar of shrimp paste, transfer it to an air-tight container or resealable plastic bag. This will help prevent air from getting in and drying out the paste.
2. Refrigerate it: While unopened shrimp paste can be stored at room temperature, opened jars should be refrigerated to extend their shelf life. Make sure to keep the container tightly sealed to prevent any odors from escaping.
3. Use it sparingly: Shrimp paste has a strong flavor, so a little goes a long way. Use it sparingly in your cooking to make it last longer.
4. Boil before using: Shrimp paste should always be cooked before consumption. Boiling it will help eliminate any bacteria that may have developed and make it safe to eat.
By following these proper storage techniques, you can ensure that your shrimp paste stays fresh and flavorful for a long time.
Different Names For Shrimp Paste In Various Regions
Shrimp paste is known by many different names depending upon the region where it is made. In Thailand, it is known as Kapee or Kapi, while in Indonesia it goes by Terasi or Trassi. In Burma, it is called Ngapi, and in Malaysia, it’s known as Belachan. In Vietnam, shrimp paste is referred to as mắm ruốc. These are just a few of the many different names for shrimp paste across Southeast Asia.
Each unique paste has a different name and different applications, including ham ha in Cantonese (Southern China/Hong Kong), and bagoong in the Philippines. These shrimp pastes can vary widely when it comes to salt level, smell, texture, and color.
It’s believed that shrimp paste originated in continental Southeast Asia, probably among the Cham and Mon peoples of Indochina. Fermented shrimp paste is known by several names in different regions of Southeast Asia. As compared to fermented fish products, shrimp pastes have lower salt content; this may be due to the different composition of fish and shrimp.
Regardless of its name or origin, shrimp paste remains a popular ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes due to its rich and robust savory flavor. It’s important to use the correct type of shrimp paste for each dish to achieve the desired taste and aroma.