Shrimp Paste Rice - Kow Klook Gapi ข้าวคลุกกะปิ

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shrimp paste rice shrimp paste rice

Shrimp Paste Rice tastes like home to me. It combines all the core ingredients, shrimp paste, dried shrimp, green mango, chili peppers, lime and shallots, into one dish. The rice is mixed with shrimp paste and dressed with fried beaten egg, shredded green mango, fried dried shrimp, sliced shallots and hot chili peppers. Additional lime juice enhances the sourness. Contrasting the flavor of shrimp paste, the rice is eaten with sweetened pork.

On my plate, I mix the rice with sliced shallots, fried dried shrimp, shredded green mango, hot chili and fried scrambled egg. The delightful aroma of different strong ingredients hit my nose. I tame the shrimp paste scent with lime juice. Each bite, I taste the shrimp paste and the crunchy fried dried shrimp. In between, I cut the shrimp paste flavor with sweetened pork. It's more than just a good dish, it's a complete visit to Thailand.

Shrimp Paste Rice seems like a lot of ingredients and sounds daunting, but it actually has many simple steps. To the Thais, this dish is cobbling up ingredients at hand and making a new dish. Shrimp paste, shallots, hot chilies, dried shrimp are common, comparable to the mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup in most western homes. Many Thai families grow green mangoes in their yards or gardens.

I love the simplicity of Shrimp Paste Rice, so, occasionally, when I see restaurants unnecessarily complicating it, I'm always surprised. Many restaurants in Thailand prepare this dish by turning it into a fried rice, which totally misses the beauty and is a distortion from its name 'klook'. Klook means to mix together. A newer version of the rice also includes fresh green beans. For me, feeling at home is to have the version that I grew up with, pure and simple.

 

2 Servings, Prep Time: 25 Minutes, Total Time: 25 Minutes

Tips and Techniques

  • Use one medium shallot or 2 small ones. 
  • Select small dried shrimp (1 cm) for best result. Smaller shrimp is easier to fry until crispy. It's also perfect size for each bite.
  • I use lean pork for sweetened pork. Traditionally, pork belly is used. If you love pork belly, this is a great opportunity to eat it. 
  • Choose high quality shrimp paste because the whole dish rests on the shrimp paste. 
  • Natural ingredients like palm sugar and green mango may vary depending on the trees. Use this recipe as a guide.
  • I find that a great ratio between palm sugar to fish sauce is 2 to 1. Start with this ratio and adjust as you see fit. 
  • Freshly cooked rice is best.  Cook rice with less water so that when you mix the shrimp paste in, the rice doesn't get gummy.
  • Have extra ingredients like fried egg, fried dried shrimp, lime, shredded mango and hot chili peppers for diners to add at the table. 
  • I recommend against stir frying the shrimp paste rice, like fried rice for 2 reasons. First, it's not a fried rice dish. The term 'klook' means to mix together. Second, heating up shrimp paste in a wok will stink your house, hands, hair and clothing.
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