The Taiwanese street food spirit: Shallot oil

Sit down in a Taiwanese noodle shop, and in less than three minutes the shop owner can bring you a great bowl of noodles. The flavor is well balanced: salty, sweet, and spicy, with aromatic herbs.

Shallot oil is the essential spirit of this delicious Taiwanese noodle soup, which is fast and easy to make. Shallot oil is an influential flavor in Taiwanese food.

Shallot oil is used on sticky rice, noodle soup, taro rice noodle soup, fish ball soup, warm green vegetables, and so on. Shallot oil is the secret that lets street noodle shops and stands serve a tasty and aromatic dish within three minutes.

Shallot oil isn’t difficult to make, but it takes time and it’s very easy to overcook. We need to use low heat to cook away the shallots’ moisture, and bring out their aroma. We need to be patient, because the finely chopped shallots can easily burn.

Shallot oil is not only used in the restaurant business, it’s a very common ingredient for Taiwanese family cooking, too. I remember my grandmother would make her own shallot oil with lard. And quickly serve it on the food she prepared. Although these days, families don’t usually take the time to make shallot oil, they still often buy it from markets or supermarkets.
 

How to make Taiwanese shallot oil

Ingredients
300g shallots (peeled)
250ml cooking oil or lard

Instructions
1. Thinly slice the shallots (about 2mm thick)
2. Heat up an empty saucepan to ensure it's dry, then put the shallots into the saucepan. Don't add the cooking oil yet.
3. As the shallots are beginning to dry out, you will smell very pleasant aroma from them Then you can add the cooking oil to the saucepan. 
4. Fry the shallots and oil in the saucepan at medium heat. After a while, you will see the oil is bubbling around the shallots (these bubbles are actually the shallot's internal moisture boiling away as steam). When the bubbling is almost finished, turn up the heat a little higher until the shallots are brown and crispy. The shallots are cooked.
5. Turn off the heat.  Keep this shallot oil in a jar in the refrigerator.

 

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