Dried Shrimp Roe is a Chinese condiment made by salt-curing the eggs of prawns before they hatch. They are considered a semi-delicacy in Southern Chinese Cuisine and they impart a salty umami-rich seafood flavour to whatever food they are sprinkled on, for example bean curd. Good quality Dried Shrimp Roe is a bright vermillion colour and looks a bit like paprika. Lower quality versions are darker in colour, these would be more salty and fishy. All varieties last way beyond the stated expiry date as long as you keep them refrigerated, they are after all cured and completely desiccated.
Where can you buy Dried Shrimp Roe? Anywhere they sell other kinds of Chinese dried seafood. Dried Shrimp Roe is used as a condiment in high-end wonton noodles so some wonton noodle chain stores will also happen to have their own brand of Dried Shrimp Roe which they sell. The Cantonese name of Dried Shrimp Roe is ‘Ha-Tzi’, meaning the offspring or seed of prawns and corresponds to the bottom two Chinese characters of the box shown in the picture.
Have you tasted Pasta Nera, that black pasta made with squid ink to give it a unique taste? Shrimp Roe is used in the same way to flavour dried chinese egg noodles. They are mixed into the dough before the noodles are made and then the noodles are dried into balls (you’ll be able to make out the individual seeds if you enlarge the photo on the right). Such noodles are considered a premium variety.
How would you use Dried Shrimp Roe outside of Chinese cooking? Have you ever tasted Bottarga (a salt-cured fish roe from Sardinia) or Karasumi (the Japanese version of Bottarga) with pasta? There is no need to cook Dried Shrimp Roe and in general you can sprinkle it on a cheese, oil or cream based pasta dish for an extra layer of flavour. I think of them as a poor man’s version of the fresh sushi type caviar I sometimes use with pasta. The taste of this roe is milder than it looks so you can afford a heavier touch. The contrasting colour will be beautiful. Dried Shrimp Roe won’t work so well with tomato and ragout based pasta. Enter Bottarga + Pasta into a search engine to get some ideas for recipes.
How about some other uses? One of my favourites is scrambled eggs topped with this tasty red powder. You can also sprinkle it on seafood soups as a condiment. Rehydrate your shrimp roe in vegetable oil to get a nice crunchy texture and you’ll be able to use shrimp roe to flavour a variety of salads or as a topping on BBQ/baked seafood.