So Ugly yet So Tasty

Apparently, the simple phrase “looks can be deceiving” is not only applicable to human beings, but to cooking ingredients as well.

If you want to see an example of a really ugly, unappealing cooking ingredient, then check out the Shrimp-Paste.

Why shrimp paste?

First, there’s the ugly factor, then there’s the stench factor. Shrimp paste is not just ugly, it has a unique pungent aroma, which many people find distasteful. Yet – if one can get past the ugly and the smelly, shrimp paste can be a cook’s best friend. When it is used in cooking, the smell dissipates completely and adds a rich flavor to food.

The smell of Shrimp Paste can vary enormously between the different brands but none can be described as pleasant. The color and texture of Shrimp Paste also varies between the different brands and also between the regions in which it is made.

Shrimp Paste is made by pounding tiny shrimps with sea salt and leaving them to decompose and ferment. They are then laid out on mats in the sun to dry. Shrimp Paste is raw when you buy it and must be cooked before use.

In my country shrimp paste is called Terasi and commonly roasted before use, as much to add flavor as for sanitary purposes. It can also be pan fried.

Indonesian dishes using Shrimp paste

In my country, shrimp paste is used as an important ingredient in many dishes from different regions across the archipelago. 

In this post I would like to share with you the recipes of  3 different  dishes using shrimp paste. These 3 dishes are excellent combination of exotic tastes you’ve never experienced before, so let’s give them a try……….

Sayur Asem (Mixed Vegetables Soup)

Sayur Asem is a very popular vegetable soup dish in Indonesian cuisine. It has mixed taste of sour, sweet and spicy.

The sweet and sour flavor of this dish is considered refreshing and very compatible with other dishes like grilled chicken  and ‘sambal  terasi’.


  • 1 liter of beef  stock
  • ¼ cup raw peanut
  • 100 g string beans (kacang panjang)
  • 1 chayote, peeled and diced
  • 1  sweet corn, cut into 3-4 pieces
  • 50 g white cabbage
  • 2 salam leaves (or you can substitute with Bay leaf)
  • 2 cm galangal
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Tamarind juice
  • salt to taste
  • 3 red chillies, seeded and sliced
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon roasted shrimp paste


  • Put the peanuts in a small saucepan with water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Put the shrimp paste into saucepan with the shallots, garlic, chili, galangal, salam leaves, and stock. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Add the peanuts and vegetables and return to the boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are cooked, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the tamarind juice and simmer for about 1 minute. Add sugar and salt to taste; if you prefer a really sour soup, sugar will not be necessary.
  • Remove galangal and salam leaves, then transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Ayam Panggang Terasi (Grilled Chicken with Shrimp-paste)

I found this recipe in one of cooking magazines named Sedap. My family love it and this dish really goes well with Sayur Asem and Sambal Terasi and worth trying…:-)


  • 1 kg chicken (I used 4 boneless chicken breast with skin-on)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (terasi)
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 fresh red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2  cups coconut milk
  • 2 salam leaves
  • 1 lemon grass, the white part only, bruised
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt


  • Seed and shred the chilies
  • Bruised the white part of the lemon grass
  • Cut chicken in half. Wash and pat dry. Rub with salt and oil.
  • Grill on gas grill or  hot coals about 10-15 minutes on each side or until done.
  • Wrap shrimp paste in foil or banana leaf and grill each side over moderate heat about 2 minutes.
  • Grind shallots, garlic, chilies, and toasted shrimp paste in a mortar using pestle into a smooth spice-paste.
  • Heat oil in frying pan. Add the spice-paste and fry on moderate heat, stirring for about 4-5 minutes, or until dry but do not burn.
  • Add coconut milk gradually, stirring after each addition.
  • Add salam leaves and lemon grass. Bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  • Add lime juice. Stir.
  • Add grilled chicken and reheat in the sauce until the liquid is thickened
  •  Serve warm with rice

The following is the picture of  the grilled (boneless) chicken served together with ‘Sambal Terasi’ and ‘fresh cucumber’

And here’s the recipe of my ‘Sambal Terasi’

Sambal Terasi (Shrimp-paste Chili sauce)

In the daily menu of Indonesia people, sambal seems can’t be separated. Although, Sambal is not the main menu, but its presence is always awaited among other main dishes.

The dishes would be tasteless without sambal and one of the most popular sambal among Indonesians is Sambal Terasi, let’s take a look:

Ingredients :

  • 6 red chilies, chopped
  • 3 red bird’s eye chilies, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of  roasted shrimp paste
  • 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar or palm sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil

Directions :

  • Heat cooking oil in a pan
  • Fry the chilies, tomatoes, and shrimp paste for about 2 minutes
  • Remove from heat
  • Put the chilies etc  in the mortar, add the sugar and grind using pestle until smooth
  • Add the lime juice



3 responses to “So Ugly yet So Tasty

  1. Hi Win, salam kenal yah. I love terasi… (pssttt.) I guess it’s an essential ingredient when living in Indonesia. Oh well, your recipes make me drool now. LOL.

  2. July 21, 2014

    Greetings from the Kapuso Network, Philippines!

    GMA NEWS TV channel 11 airs alternative myth-busting/mystery-solving program dubbed “I JUANDER”. The program challenges/reinforces historical mysteries and widely-accepted, long-held Filipino beliefs. Seasoned broadcast journalists Susan Enriquez and Cesar Apolinario try to answer all the questions of every “Juan”!

    For our episode on August 6, 2014, we will be featuring the topic “I JUANDER: Ano ang orihinal na bagoong sa bayan ni Juan?”(I wonder, what is the original shrimp paste in the Philippines?) . The said episode will feature different types of bagoong in the country, as well as, the process on how it is being made and creative dishes with bagoong (shrimp paste).

    In relation to this, we would like to ask for permission to use the pictures of your Terasi (shrimp paste in Indonesia) to support our story. Rest be assured that we’re going to put the proper credits on the pictures.

    This episode will air in multiple replays and will be shown locally and internationally. It is also subject for digital rights. We hope that you will be one with us in our advocacy to a more informed and socially-aware viewing public. A response from you would be highly appreciated.

    Should you have any questions, you may get in touch with me through the GMA Trunkline (632) 982 7777 loc. 1430/1431. You may also contact me through my mobile at 0915- 778-4889.
    Thank you very much!

    Jerica Herga
    Program Researcher
    GMA News and Public Affairs

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