Pungent is a word you might use to describe Thai Shrimp Paste (Kapi, กะปิ) – a savory and powerful mixture of fermented shrimp and sea salt. And if you like Thai curry or Tod Mun Pla (fish cakes), chances are you’ve had this intense product used as an ingredient many times. On it’s own, before cooking, shrimp paste can smell anywhere from nutty-and- toasted-seafood-goodness to overpowering and almost rotten. But a very cool thing happens when cooking or combining shrimp paste with fresh herbs and chilis; the smell mellows and the taste becomes a concentrated and fragrant umami hit of the sea.
This is an essential item to add depth of flavor to your Thai dishes – and can be used both as a cooking ingredient, or as the primary element in the deliciously strong dipping sauce called Nam Phrik Kapi.