Trassi - Balachan or Blachan

Trassi is probably one of the odder ingredients in many Southeast Asian dishes.

Trassi is made from shrimp, sardines and other small salted fish. After having been left in the sun to ferment until very pungent and odorous it is mashed and in some cases dried (probably mostly for export or transport - where I live currently I'd probably be hard put to find the stuff in an un-dried form). In Asian markets it's available as a paste, a powder or in cake form.

Use

Use of trassi in Asian cuisines can probably best be likened to the use of bouillon in western cuisines. It adds flavor to the dish. It's also quite salty, so that helps, too.

Indonesian cuisine

I only really know Indonesian cuisine, so I'll confine my comments to that.
If you're anywhere near serious about cooking Indonesian dishes, trassi is an essential ingredient to have. There are a great number of dishes that will require the use of trassi, for example nasi goreng, nearly all different kinds of sambal, a great number of meat dishes, like saté ayam rendang (saté made of chicken with spices), daging bumbu rujak (meat dish with 'rujak' seasoning) and daging bumbu besengèk (you guessed it: meat dish with 'besengèk' seasoning).

In the recipes for the above dishes trassi is often not listed separately on the ingredients list. Instead, 'sambal trassi' is listed. This combines two very common ingredients in Indonesian cuisine, trassi and sambal. Sambal trassi is just that, sambal (which is a paste of ground lomboks - chili peppers) with trassi.


April 10, 2001

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