The New 'It' Garnish: Fried Aromatics

'Mes en plas' now includes fried aromatics and fish sauce.  Call it Vietnamese cuisine or call it an artful puppy pile of flavors.  My romp in Vietnam yields surprises around every corner - the excellent variety of flavors and textures is no exception.

These fried shallots permeate the kitchen, my hair, and much of Vietnamese cuisine.  I found these crisps floating in a sea of beef pho, perched atop a small mountain of green papaya salad, and squeezed into the folds of my pork belly banh mi.  They are a perfect mix of sweet and bitter.  Eat them on your salads, your noodles, your burgers, your everything.  They also pair swimmingly with roasted peanuts.They are addictive.  I like to make as many as possible, which means that I must go to the Mexican mart to buy them in bulk.

To make them, I heat 1/2 of oil in a thick pan or saucepan over medium, until it registers 265F.  I add thinly sliced shallots (2 mm thick) in one layer.  **Ideally (if you have time), dry the shallot slices in the sun for 3 hours prior to frying.** I do not allow myself to crowd the pan.  I fry at medium-low for ~7 minutes, stirring frequently.  (If you do not stir, the shallots closest to the rim of the pan will brown too quickly.)  Once they start to turn color, they turn quickly.  Try to anticipate the moment when they go from golden to dark brown.  Start taking the shallots out once they hit this threshold - maybe even 10 seconds earlier.  Drain on a paper towel.  Store in a tupperware up to 3 weeks - however, you will likely finish them by the end of the day.  Keep shallot oil and use to flavor other dishes.

I also fried up some garlic chips for good measure.  Over medium heat, I crisped thin slices of garlic until they radiated golden (~5 minutes).  But be careful! They go from good to burnt as soon as you look away.  Fry and drain over paper towels.  They keep well in an airtight container for a couple weeks.  These can be used to garnish salads or noodles.  They also show up in Burmese cuisine.  Just check out their tea leaf salad or rainbow noodles salads to find these bittersweet chips.


  1. yes..these are so good! I always have a stash in my kitchen.

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  3. fried shallots have always been a part of chinese cuisine! it especially goes well with chinese fried rice and porridge! :D


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