Fried shallots are a beloved garnish for countless South East Asian dishes. The Asian shallot is purplish red in colour and are about half the size of the orangey-brown shallots sold in American markets. Nonetheless, the American shallots are good substitutes but bear in mind that they contain more moisture.
It is really not difficult to make your own and your helper can be taught how to do this. Culturally, Indonesian cuisine is more like Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine so if your helper is Indonesian, she is likely to know how to do this already. Peeling the shallots is somewhat tedious so pick a time when things are quiet on the home-front. Some wet markets sell ready-peeled shallots. This is a good project when you are out or away with the kids.
Home-made is usually more fragrant than store bought ones and you also get the added bonus of a bottle of heavenly flavoured shallot oil – a few drops over your rice congee, steamed yam cake, chee cheong fun, blanched kai lan or even in your salad dressing……….you will be sold! Williams Sonoma sells a bottle of shallot oil for quite a sum of money!
There are several brands of commercially prepared fried shallots at both the wet markets and supermarkets. I believe that some food stalls sell ready made bottles of fried shallots too. Some commercially prepared fried shallots are coated with a smattering of corn or tapioca flour to provide some bulk and to crisp them. UGH!
HINT: Use a Tbsp of this fragrant oil for your stir fries or fried rice on those days when you have run out of fresh shallots.
Ingredients and Yield
500 gm of shallots and 2 Cups of cooking oil yields 190 gm of fried shallots and almost 1 1/2 Cups of shallot oil.
STEP 1. Peel and slice the shallots. Place them on a large tray and sun them for about 2 hours. This dries the shallots and crisps them more readily when they are deep fried.
STEP 2. GENTLY run your fingers through the slices to separate the rings (slices are now a little limp due to loss of moisture).
STEP 3. Heat wok over high heat for 3 mins or so. Add 2 cups of oil ( preferably soy, canola or corn) till the oil is about 340 to 350 C. Test by dipping a wooden chopstick into the oil and if the oil bubbles quickly around the tip, it is ready. Drop a few rings into the hot oil to test. It should sizzle and rise to the top in just a few seconds. Remove these to prevent burning. Drop handfuls of sliced shallots into the oil, stirring the oil with a spatula as you do so. The oil foams and sizzles.
STEP 4. As the shallots fry, stir them now and then. The oil temperature will drop to around 230C. You will notice slight changes in shallots’ colour and the oil is still foaming.
STEP 5. If almost half of the sliced shallots have turned golden, keep stirring constantly. Lower heat to medium. Watch carefully as within a short few minutes, all will turn golden. See photo below.
STEP 6. Heat should be low. Work quickly to lift all the fried shallots onto a tray that has been lined with paper towels. Cool fried shallots and the shallot oil. Then, bottle both separately. Refrigerate so that you can enjoy them for a longer time. They keep for about 2 months ( if they are not eaten by then!).
Quintessentially South East Asian – Assortment of 4 types of Garnishes
Photo below shows an assortment of the 4 types of garnishes. One of them is Fried shallots. They add another dimension to your dish. We can’t imagine life without them.
Below is a plate of Chee Cheong Fun (thick rice noodles) topped with sweet and chilly sauces, sprinkled with deep fried shallots, dry roasted sesame seeds and a few drops of shallot and sesame oils – doesn’t it prepare you for the day ahead?