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. 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 dessicated.
You’ll come across Dried Shrimp Roe as a condiment in quality wonton noodles. They are also sometimes cooked with with bean curd. Have you tasted Pasta Nera? That black pasta uses squid ink to give it a unique taste. Dried Shrimp Roe is used in the same way to flavour premium quality dried chinese noodles. They are mixed into the noodle dough before the noodles are dried and release their taste when the noodles are boiled. Where can you buy Dried Shrimp Roe? Anywhere they sell other kinds of Chinese dried seafood, and also in some chain wonton noodle shops if they happen to have their own brand. 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.
How would you use Dried Shrimp Roe outside of traditional 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 cheese, oil or cream based pasta dishes 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.
Dried shrimp roe is not the same as the shrimp eggs used as aquatic food. Two different things altogether.