Shrimp chips are popular throughout Southeast Asia. They have many names, such as “prawn crackers” and “krupuk” (Indonesian). Properly prepared, these chips are light, not greasy, and have a mild but clear shrimp flavor. Like potato chips, it’s hard to eat just one. I always have some on hand. For entertaining, I bring out the oil and quickly fry up a batch. They’re delightful as party snacks, on their own, with dip, or as scoops for chopped salads and guacamole. And because they aren’t as familiar here, they make a great “conversation piece.”
The basic ingredients are ground shrimp and tapioca starch, which are made into a dough. The dough is first steamed and then sliced into thin discs that are put out in the hot sun to dry. Once dry, the chips are packaged for sale. They must be deep fried to be eaten. A beauty of shrimp chips is that, because they are a dried product, they keep quite a long time and so make a nice addition to your larder.
I suggest you avoid the colored varieties of shrimp chips; the flavor is not as good. I’ve purchased tasty varieties from China and Indonesia, and I’m told Vietnam produces tasty chips as well.
- dried shrimp chips
- vegetable oil for frying (the best oils are those with a high smoke point such as peanut, safflower, sunflower, or canola)
Cover a baking tray or large platter with newspapers and then place a layer of paper towels over it.
Pour oil to a depth of 3/4- 1″ in a wok or 5-quart Dutch oven-style pot. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Measure the heat with a deep-fry thermometer, or (using the Asian method) stick a wooden chop stick in the oil. When small bubbles immediately appear at the base of the chopstick, your oil is at the right temperature.
Drop several chips into your hot oil. Do not add more than 4-5 at a time. The chips will more than double in size when cooked. Too many at a time and they will become overcrowded and cook unevenly.
When you drop them into the oil, they will immediately sink to the bottom of the pan, but very quickly you will begin to see a slight bubbling and curling around the edges of the chips. Once that starts, in no time at all, the chip will rapidly expand and rise to the surface of the oil.
Pay close attention. As soon as the chips stop expanding, a matter of seconds not minutes, remove them from the oil and place them on the prepared paper towel and newspapers to drain.
Don’t let the chips brown or their delicate flavor will be lost. Also take care to regulate the temperature of the oil as you’re cooking. You need to stay at the stove throughout the frying process because everything will happen fairly quickly. Make adjustments to the number of chips you are frying at a time so that you’re working at a comfortable pace.
Serve and enjoy!