Coming to the crunch
I love the super-crunchy shallots that are sprinkled on top of some Asian food. How do they make them so crunchy? When I fry shallots they go soft or caramelly like onions.
- Thanks, Graeme
Over the years I've made them many ways, using a variety of shallots and also onions but it's the shallot itself that will define the finished article.
In Thailand and Southeast Asia the shallots of choice are tightly layered, smallish red ones. These are peeled, then sliced lengthways very thinly. They're deep-fried in oil in woks at around 150C until golden. Stir and toss gently and regularly with a slotted spoon until golden and crisp. Woks are the best deep-fryers because of the heat transference from the curved metal but not always the most practical. Drain the shallots well on absorbent paper and store in an airtight container.
However, this variety of shallot isn't always easily sourced here, so the more common, fatter-fleshed white shallots (brown skin) can be cooked to near enough the same effect. Peel and thinly slice into rings then pour milk over, gently mix, and marinate for 3-6 hours, stirring occasionally. Drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper or a tea towel, then deep-fry as above. Make sure you stir them regularly to stop them sticking to each other and to prevent them burning - a dark fried shallot will taste bitter. If they don't crisp up for some reason, of if you'd like a different effect, then you can also toss the patted-dry shallots in either corn flour, rice flour or wheat flour, shaking off excess flour through a sieve, before deep-frying.
Another lovely tasty crunchy thing for an Asian-style topping is deep-fried peanuts. I put a cup of shelled peanuts in a pot with a chopped-up chilli and a little salt and cover with 2cm of cold water. Bring to the boil and gently boil for 8 minutes before draining. Spread them on a tray lined with a tea towel and dry overnight uncovered (the fridge is a good place). The next day, place in a pot and pour enough oil over them to cover by 1cm and slowly bring to 160degC. Cook, stirring frequently, until light golden in colour then strain through a metal sieve. Toss with 1 tablespoon of icing sugar and leave to cool on a tray. Roughly pound with mortar and pestle, or roughly chop. Great sprinkled over dishes with torn mint, shredded coriander and sliced spring onions.
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