I use shrimp paste a lot in my cooking, perhaps it’s because it was introduced to me when we were living in Thailand. When we first moved to Thailand, my family became farmers, and we found most of our food from nature. The supermarket was the great outdoor, whether it be mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and various types of eatable vegetables and flowers. There were also plenty in the water, we learned how to fish at a very young age, and not to mention shrimp, we had more than we could eat.
My parents made them into shrimp paste, and this saved us a lot of money from having to buy. There are many studies out there about the health benefits of shrimp paste, and one that is interesting is Dental Erosion Protection by Fermented Shrimp Paste in Acidic Food by C. Chuenarrom, P. Benjakul, the free version of the study read,
“The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which fermented shrimp paste (which has a high calcium concentration) reduces dental erosion in vitro. In experiment 1, enamel specimens were exposed to various concentrations of shrimp paste in tamarind juice for 15 min, once a day, for a total of 29 days. In experiment 2, pre-softened enamel specimens were exposed to different concentrations of shrimp paste in water, using an exposure method similar to experiment 1. Profilometry and a microhardness test were used to assess changes in enamel loss and softening. The results showed that shrimp paste can reduce the erosive potential of tamarind juice and re-harden softened enamel.”
Krill, photo source
The shrimp that my parents used to make shrimp paste (Kapee in Thai) was the krill, a small tiny shrimp that Lao people called sao noi disco or dancing shrimp. It takes about 8 months for the shrimp paste to ferment, and 1 pound of krill can make about half a pound of shrimp paste. The ingredients for homemade shrimp paste are krill, salt, and brown sugar, 22 pounds of krill to 2 pounds of salt. First mix the krill and salt, let the water drain and keep it in a container overnight. Spread them out to dry for 1 day, make sure you keep turning them so that the bottom will dry also. Then pound (grind) with mortal and pestle, and add brown sugar. Keep it in an airtight container for 7 days. Spread it out to dry again for 1 day, then pound it again. Keep it in an airtight container for 8 months, then you have Kapee.
Shrimp paste is high in calcium because of the krill shell, by breaking it down into fine pieces allows us to eat shrimp with shell and all. Its oil is said to be a good source of the omega 3 oils, there is a small but growing market for krill oil as a dietary supplement ingredient.