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DRIED SEAFOOD and other dried foods in Chinese groceries--request for an introduction

We've all probably seen the immense array of dried shrimp, scallops, and other seafood, as well as dried mushrooms, offered in Chinese markets. I've been walking past these displays for years but have never purchased anything except the occasional dried shitake. I've no idea what many of these items are in the first place! And why the huge price differential with scallops, for example?

I am an avid home cook, but my dishes are almost always in the European tradition. But I imagine that many of these dried ingredients could be used as flavor boosters in non-Asian dishes. Curious if other CHers use them in this way, or do you buy these often pricey dried ingredients solely for use in Chinese home cooking?

Please enlighten me...these displays look like a wonderland of goodness and I would like to partake!

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  1. I always have a pack of 'Prophpase Kelp slices', dried and thin, I scissor slivers in to my noodle cooking water. you can then have a bowl of noodles meaty or fishy and the kelp will add
    an interesting texture and savoury taste to your dish.

    Also I have small packets of dried seaweed which are little blocks and ten mins in
    hot water blossom out, they are a bit more challenging as they look as though they
    could swim, but again are equally savoury.

    In all, dried seaweed is cheap, healthy and tastes good.

    Dried mushrooms are very good, the Italians love them, and I do too.

    they will improve any casserole .

    Let Google be your friend.. Good luck.

    My next trick will be to gather fresh seaweed when camping in Brittany

    1 Reply
    1. re: Naguere

      When I saw all the stranded seaweed when I was Brittany, I was wondering why no one was harvesting it. It looked fresh enough to eat!

    2. Previous discussion on same topic here with lots of good info.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847624

      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I did read that other thread, thanks. But I am looking for more specific applications of these items in non-Asian cooking.

        Naguere: I am aware of the uses of dried mushrooms and often cook with dried porcini, morels, shitake, etc I am asking here about items to be found in markets in overseas Chinatowns.
        Is seaweed often used in Chinese cooking? In my limited experience, I've seen it only in a few Shanghai dishes, most often in a batter for fried fish.

        1. re: erica

          Well, I use dried sea cucumbers (after rehydrating them) in meatloaf and meatballs. See my previous thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739904

          Dried conpoy is great in chicken soup, as well as marinara sauce (scoop them out before serving, not for eating).

          1. re: erica

            I see seaweed a lot in xiao tsai - small, vegetable side dishes. And various sea vegetables are used in salads, both fresh and rehydrated.

        2. Of the dried seafoods - dried shrimp, dried scallops, dried oysters, dried fish and salted dried fish - dried shrimp is your best bet to experiment with and use in a wide variety of dishes.

          A little dried shrimp, about 1 tablespoons, is enough to add unami to a dish and an extra boost of flavor without being overly fishy. You can try it in broth based seafood dishes, such as, clam chowder, cioppino or paella.

          Soak for about an hour and mince. The soaking just softens the dried shrimp enough to mince.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chow_fun

            Thanks for that tip! While I usually have a package of dried shrimp on hand for Asian dishes, I never thought to use it in chowders, cioppino, or paella.

          2. Dried shrimp—called camarón seco in Spanish—is used for soup (caldo de camarón seco) and for a special croquette made for Lenten Fridays called tortitas de camarón. (This is either served with romeritos en mole—a sour herb that looks like rosemary but tastes like iron-y spinach—or with tomato sauce and nopalitos.)

            You can buy them whole or ground in Mexican markets.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Thanks, all, for the tips. On the dried shrimp, I remember bringing back a bag from Tehuantepec in my pre-CH days. The contents of that bag, transferred into a glass jar, must have lived in my cupboard for 10 years before I threw it out. I was clueless on how to use! Not a chance that that would happen now, thanks to the the goodness of CH!

            2. I've had reconstituted dried abalone and it is quite good. I would not have the first idea how to make it, however.