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Asian Shrimp Paste etc.

I bought a can of shrimp paste at the oriental market so I can make a recipe for Thai fried rice. There isn't any warning on the can to refrigerate after opening so I asked the cashier. He couldn't find anything and said there isn't much refrigeration "back home" so he didn't think I needed to refrigerate it. Does anyone know for sure? And, once open, how long will it last?

I have gone thru quite a few years' worth of Cooking Light magazine plus I have some recipes I found on the internet. What I have cooked so far has come out very good. The oriental market is an hour away so I stocked up on a lot of ingredients including several kinds of noodles. I bought a small bunch of lemongrass but found it was very woody. What's the secret? Did I not peel back enough leaves? Should I have cut more of the stem base off? Minced finer? Should I buy the frozen chopped lemongrass next time? I'm still trying to figure out the differences between all the chili sauces. And now that I've read the link to Chez Pim's pad thai instructions, perhaps I should have bought dried shrimp. I keep using the bottled ginger paste instead of fresh ginger root. Am I missing out on better flavor because of my laziness?

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  1. Yes...try to use fresh ingredients(ginger) where possible.

    Lemongrass is best bought whole stalk. You should chop off an inch or two of the woody base and peel off the sturdy outer leaves. Discard.

    Shrimp paste does not need to be refrigerated though, once opened, you may wish to seal the container inside a ziploc or another container to cut down on odor leakage. Shrimp paste lasts quite awhile...over time as it darkens, it degrades.

    1 Reply
    1. re: aelph

      You may want to work with the shrimp paste under your range hood. It is so pungent. A good whiff could bring tears to your eyes. I can't imagine it needing refrigeration

    2. Most shrimp paste (NOT ALL) has enough salt for it to last quite a while without refrigeration, but refrigeration won't hurt it either.
      Fresh ginger is much better than anything canned or bottled, and it isn't much effort to make your own ginger paste in small quantities.

      1. My mom used to transfer it into a small jar that sealed WELL, and put it in the fridge, but as hannaone pointed out, as salty as shrimp paste is, that's probably not necessary. The important thing to remember is to seal it, or your entire house will smell like a fishing pier.

        1. Lemongrass is very woody; don't try to eat it, just use it for flavoring (as you would a bay leaf).

          1 Reply
          1. re: nashville2ny

            Thanks for the tips and warnings. I'm glad I asked the question BEFORE I opened up that can!

          2. Lemongrass woodiness: I was taught to bend the lemongrass and, where it bends, cut...after peeling down a bit to get rid of the tougher outer leaves, this elimates the woody stem without cutting too much (not dissimilar to asparagus)...I suggest you mince it, the pulverize it in a food processor or mortar and pestle...This will break down the fibers enough to not get stuck in yer diner's throat.

            I agree with all other posters about ginger paste...i dont' know what "exotic" (i.e. additives) they add to those jars of paste, but i don't like em...You can make yer own and store it in the fridge with a light coating of vegetable oil on top and it will stay good for a while.

            1. Don't ever try to eat lemon grass. It's a flavorer that is not meant to be eaten. Like nashville2ny said - it's supposed to be used like a bay leaf. Discard it after cooking unless you want your diners spitting it out at he table or picking their teeth during dinner.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Cremon

                That is not true. There are many dishes in Southeast Asia cooking where lemongrass is eaten. As mentioned in some of the posts above you just need to handle it properly.

                1. re: chefj

                  I agree that for the most part it is used to flavor a dish and is pulled out and discarded but I've used a very fine dice of lemon grass in dipping sauces and other dishes that was meant to be eaten. No spitting or picking required.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Good examples of it not being"used like a bay leaf" or "Don't ever try to eat lemon grass"
                    All Thai Curry Pastes
                    Chicken in Lemon Grass (Ga Xao Xa Ot)
                    Crisp Lemongrass Salmon Recipe (Ca Nuong Xa)
                    Loa Beef Salad (Channam Touk)
                    Marathi Lemongrass Rasam

                    I could go on but.

                  2. re: chefj

                    90% of the time, they don't actually EAT it except in curries. Trust me. They cook with it, but it doesn' pass through their digestive systems except in rare cases. You cannot chew and swallow lemon grass. It CAN be eaten if it is thoroughly pureed (it will give you a lot of fiber, LOL). But Thais generally don't grind up lemon grass like that, seeing as most don't have a food processor that can handle it. . They bruise it, let the oils favor their food and then eat the dish, leaving the lemongrass behind.

                    In some curries, they grind a small amount up this way with a mortar and pestle (a LOT of work).

                    1. re: Cremon

                      I assume that by "they" you mean Thais, That may be true but there are many other cultures and cuisines that use lemongrass and it is EATEN.
                      The centers of the stalks are tender and NO problem to slice, mash chew or digest. You just need to remove the FIBROUS outer stalks and get to the tender center
                      Also the amount of lemongrass in Thai curries is not small. When the product is handled PROPERLY it is not a LOT of work even in a mortar and pestle.

                      1. re: chefj

                        You are correct. It is also eaten in Thai cooking.......they pulverize it with a mortar and many Thai's have food processors these days. The Vietnamese use much lemongrass and it is eaten as it is in most of Southeast Asia. The only place Ive ever seen it removed has been in the US. I took week long cooking classes in Thailand and also Singapore and never was it removed or ever mentioned to do so.

                        1. re: chefj

                          I lived in Thailand for 6 years. I am not sure what your definition of a lot of work is, but they start pulverizing the paste for a curry meal well beforehand, hammering the pestle rhythmically for 20 to 40 minutes depending on how much they need to make. I am not sure where you get your lemongrass (there are many different varieties) but the kind in Thailand does not have an edible center. It looks like papyrus grass when grown over there and is very woody (much like galangal root, which is ALSO seldom eaten for the same reason). When you peel all the layers away you end up with what looks like a reed. This is the pith and contains a lot of fiber but it is more tender than the outer part of the stalk. It is this part they mash up in the mortar and peste or food processor if they have one. Thai people got in the habit of grinding lemon grass up into their curry pastes because that was the only way it could be consumed - the tradition grew ou of necessity. They could cut the tender hearts but even those could not be swallowed (though they would sometimes chew them to get the citrus flavor). But by grinding it in the in a mortar and pestle, the lemongrass didnt have to be removed before the dish was eaten (as it is still done with coconut and Tom Yum soups). Also, the food processor is a relavtively new addition to Thai kitchens. When I lived there, pastes were still being prepared with a mortar and pestle.

                          1. re: Cremon

                            As I said in my last reply, Thais are not the only people using lemongrass.
                            You may have been exposed to a variety that most other places do not use. A s cited above There are many preparations from southeast Asian and south Asian cultures use thinly sliced or minced lemongrass that is meant to be eaten. If you do not believe it research some of the dishes listed above.
                            Your sweeping statement that lemongrass should never be eaten is wrong.

                  3. dfrostnh,

                    If we are talking about the same shrimp paste (purple color very finely ground), then you don't need to refrigerate it because of its high salt content. Nonetheless, there is nothing wrong if you want to keep it in the refrigerator. I do. It is a very much an acquired taste.

                    I don't know much about lemon grass, so I will skip this one.

                    Yes, there is a difference between using fresh ginger root and bottle ginger paste. The bottle ginger paste. How much you miss out? That is a tough question and a personal too. I will just go ahead and play with a fresh ginger for a week or two and then go back to the bottle ginger paste and see if you think the taste difference justify your extra work. Now, there is a difference between making finely diced ginger and actual smooth ginger paste. If you want the latter, you may want a microplane grater or a ceramic grater plate or something like that.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      thanks chemicalkinetics. Since my OP I have purchased a nice grater that is easy to use and it is not longer difficult to grate ginger. I did end up buying frozen chopped lemon grass.

                      And I haven't used up the shrimp paste yet!

                      1. re: dfrostnh

                        Best wish. If you ever want to upgrade your grater, consider the microplane type. Not necessary have to exactly from that brand, but it won't hurt. By the way, I forgot to take a closer look. Now, I realize this original post is a 2 years old post


                    2. Mmm I love shrimp paste stir fried with cabbage (my mom calls it Chinese cabbage.. but I don't mean nappa. It's the flat one and it's very pale in color. I've only seen it in asian markets though) is sooooo good.

                      We put it in the fridge. I cant imagine not doing it. We've had shrimp paste sit in the fridge for over a year and it's fine.

                      you can always just buy fresh ginger and throw it in the freezer so it won't dry out. take it out a little bit before you need it and chop off what you want. i like it frozen so it grates more finely for when I make steamed chicken buns and i want a light ginger flavor.