A member of the fried shallot-green onion-cilantro trifecta, fried shallots are my absolute favorite garnish. Alone or as part of the team, they add loads of flavor to just about any dish.
In SE Asian cooking, fried shallots (aka bawang goreng in Indonesian) are most often added as a garnish to soups, noodle dishes, and congee. I always top fried noodles and fried rice with fried shallots (ooh … I used ‘fried’ three times in one sentence!). And it’s a great all round substitute if you don’t have onions or shallots on hand.
Here are 5 aha! ways to use fried shallots:
1. Stir fried shallots and cilantro/chives into an omelet
2. If you don’t have chicken or vegetable stock, add fried shallots and fried garlic during cooking to flavor soups in a pinch
4. Shower shallots over a simple lunch of a sunny-side-up egg drizzled with kecap manis on rice
5. On the Western front, top steaks, salads, pastas, and (everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dish) green bean casserole with fried shallots.
I have to admit I don’t enjoy deep-frying in my kitchen, so I’m inclined to buy fried shallots readymade. Look for golden hued specimens that are light-colored and crisp as opposed to dark and oily.
However, my mom always made it from scratch. Whenever she slipped a big batch of sliced shallots into the oil-filled wok, I would stand clear, startled by the loud hissing and sputtering as the moist shallots hit the hot oil. As the sizzling calmed down, I would stand on my tippy-toes to peer into the wok to watch the shallots foam and dance about. When they were done, mom would scoop up the golden bits with a large wire-mesh strainer and drain the tiny shards on newspaper before starting all over again.
Once the shallots were crisp and brittle, my mom would tip them into a large jar for safe-keeping. And whether we were eating oxtail soup or fried rice or gado gado, the crisp shallot curls would always make an appearance.
If you’d like to have a go at it, be my guest!
Fried Shallots (Bawang Goreng)
You can use any type of vegetable oil–from canola to peanut to corn–that has a high smoke point, just not olive oil. The leftover oil is delicious in a vinaigrette, tossed into a Burmese noodle salad, or can be used again to cook other savory dishes.
8 Asian shallots (about 6 ounces)
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
Peel and cut the shallots lengthwise into paper-thin slices.
Pour oil to a depth of about 1 inch into a medium heavy skillet or saucepan.
Heat over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking (about 350 degrees F). Tip in as many shallot slivers as will fit comfortably in the skillet (small batches are easier to monitor). The oil will foam and froth because of the moisture, but the bubbles should die down as the shallots cook.
Using a slotted spoon or wire mesh strainer, stir continuously to ensure the shallots brown evenly but don’t burn. They will soften and wilt before turning light golden, 1 to 2 minutes. The timing depends on how hot the oil is and how thin the slices are. If the shallots start to burn quickly, adjust the heat accordingly.
Once they are uniformly brown, remove immediately. Take them out sooner rather than later because they will continue to cook even out of the oil, and if they overcook, they will turn dark brown and taste bitter. Drain on paper towels. The limp shreds will eventually crisp up.
Store in an airtight container for up to one week in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate if you prefer.
Want to see how others are doing it? Here are more fried shallot resources:
What are your aha! ways of using fried shallots?