Shrimp powder is made from small shrimp which have been sundried and then ground, creating a powder with an intensely salty, fishy taste – it is one of the best examples of umami, the ‘fifth flavour’.
Its use is widespread in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia where it is an essential ingredient in many dishes. In Chinese cooking it is an important part of the old takeaway favourite, OK sauce, and it is sprinkled onto crispy seaweed as a flavour booster.
One excellent use is a small amount added to fried rice, but shrimp powder does need to be used in moderation due to its strong flavour and aroma. A pinch is usually enough. A small amount will also intensify any seafood-based noodle soup, such as lakhsa, and it works very well with coconut-based dishes too.
In European cuisine it could substitute for anchovy paste or essence, and a pinch added to any fish soup will do no harm at all. Just remember, a little goes a long way with this great addition to the spice cupboard!