The cuisine of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a rich amalgamation of influences from all over the world. Its distinctive flavours are influenced by China, India, Thailand and Singapore but the dishes themselves are an entirely unique creation. With a large amount of seafood available, a lot of the cuisine relies on fish and shellfish with the flavours dancing between a sour, salty, bitter and spicy, all in one go. 

Similar to Goa and even Mumbai, Myanmar has derived its own methods of preservation when it comes to seafood. Mumbai has its Bombay Duck, Goa its Kismoor (dried shrimp condiment) and Myanmar, they have the Balachaung. 

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Balachaung is a spicy, intensely fishy condiment that is served as an accompaniment to almost every meal. With a distinct crunchy texture from the fried shrimp and oily base, it can be scooped up with rotis or drizzled onto their signature sticky rice to give any dish a signature flavour. 

Be warned that whipping up a Balachaung batch will have your home smelling like shrimp for a good long while, but when you get a taste of the aromatic sauce, it will all seem worth it. The best part is that because everything is already cooked and immersed in oil, it will be naturally preserved for months even at room temperature, although you can refrigerate it if you prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 10 onions finely sliced
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 inch of ginger, sliced thin
  • 6-8 dried long red chillies
  • 1 cup of dried shrimp
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for deep frying

Method:

  • Rinse the dried shrimps several times to wash off any sand. Drain till dry to the touch. Dab using paper towels, if needed.
  • Heat oil in a pan for deep-frying. Fry the dried long red chillies until it starts to darken. Drain on paper towels and let cool completely. Pulse in a blender until completely powdered. Set aside.
  • In the same blender, pulse the dried shrimp, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt until shredded. Set aside.
  • In the same oil, deep fry the onions, ginger and garlic until crisp. Set aside.
  • In the same oil, fry the shredded shrimp (in several batches, if needed) until it no longer smells raw. Drain and set aside.
  • Transfer all the oil to a bowl, leaving about 2-3 tsp in the pan. Combine all the ingredients together in the pan (fried onion, fried ginger, fried garlic, fried shrimp and as many fried red chilli flakes as you can handle). Adjust salt to taste.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely. Store in a clean, dry jar at room temperature for months.