This paste or sauce is made from pulverized salted prawns that are then allowed to ferment. The paste form has been dried in the sun and cut into cakes, but these are rarely found outside Asia. However, prawn sauce, which has been packed in a thick, moist state directly into jars, is widely available. Once packed, the light pink prawn sauce slowly turns greyish, acquiring a pungent flavour as it matures. Popular in southern Chinese cooking, this ingredient adds a distinctive flavour and fragrance to dishes. Although the odour of prawn sauce takes getting used to, remember that the cooking process quickly tones down its aroma and taste. It is similar to anchovy paste in texture, though stronger in taste and odour. It can be found at Chinese grocers or supermarkets.
Kept in the refrigerator, it will last indefinitely.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.