Jack Hua Sour Shrimp Paste Review
If you are an afficionado of Thai food, you will almost certainly have enjoyed Tom Yum Soup a time or two as it is almost ubiquitous Thai restaurant menus. Making the necessary spice blend at home can be a little difficult for western cooks, though, given the range of ingredients, but this product from the Jack Hua Company in Thailand makes things very simple and convenient. The label on the jar does specifically identify this as being intended for Tom Yum soup (and even provides a simple little recipe), but the paste is extremely versatile and can be adapted to many other dishes as well.
Here, below the aforementioned recipe, you can see from the ingredient list that the paste is based on onion and dried shrimp in soybean oil with chili, lemongrass and galanga providing an aromatic spiciness. Lime, kaffir lime leaf and citric acid are included for the sour flavor, which is central to a good Tom Yum soup.
The quantity of oil may seem a little alarming to some but it allows the paste to store for a much longer period by keeping the other ingredients covered and less vulnerable to oxidation. The paste should be refrigerated after opening, but it can last for many months stored that way.
Appearance and Taste
The paste, as you can see, is a homogenous, oily blend and looks very much like the Crab Paste made by the same manufacturer. The redness of the oil does not come exclusively from chili, however, but rather from Paprika (which is slightly less traditional than the other spice components).
The aroma, on opening the jar, is not especially strong. The Soy Bean Oil is apparent (and probably masks everything else to some degree), but you can also get a definite Citronella -like note from the Lemon Grass.
The taste is a very nice blend of the essential flavors of a good Tom Yum Soup, with the sour, lime notes dominating. The chili heat is not especially strong, which actually makes the product more versatile. Extra chili can be added, but spicy heat is difficult to subtract.
Culinary Uses for the Paste
Obviously, making Tom Yum Soup is the primary intended use and, above, you can see a soup I put together based on the recipe on the jar label. I departed from the suggestion somewhat by using homemade shrimp stock rather than water, and I also used Dried Chinese Black Mushrooms rather than fresh Button Mushrooms, which I have most commonly encountered in restaurant versions. The result was very nice indeed.
Thai-Style Pork Rendang – The Sour Soup Paste adds a very new dimension to an Indonesian cookery technique.
Thai-Style Pork with Pineapple – In this dish, the sour notes of the Tom Yum Paste work very nicely with the sweetness of pineapple.
Jack Hua Sour Shrimp Paste is a very convenient product for the home cook. It stores well, is easy to use in recipes and adapts to many different uses. It is well worth having on hand, especially for impromptu meals.