21 Jun2010

Fried Shallots

by Marketman


Fried shallots are essential for many Indonesian, Thai and Malaysian dishes. They impart a sweet, pungent and sometimes bitter note to salads, soups, stews and other dishes from those countries. And for the life of me, I have the DARNEDEST time getting them right. As usual, the simplest sounding things are the hardest to execute properly. I slice up lots of sibuyas tagalog or small red onions or shallots, usually from Ilocos or thereabouts. Then I heat up some vegetable oil, add the onions, and slowly stir fry them so that their natural sugars emerge and slowly caramelize. I take them out when I think they look right (it can take 10+ minutes and when they dry, they are bitter burned. ARRRGH. In this case, I threw out the first batch and had to this all over again…


So if any of you have brilliant tips on how to get this right, I would greatly appreciate your input and comments. In Jakarta eateries, I used to see them have huge containers of fried shallots and they went onto lots of dishes. But rarely were they as carcinogenic tasting as some of the ones I manage to make and throw out. I have tried lowering the heat, reducing the fat, slicing them bigger — but so far I am still not sure how to do this consistently well. Okay, so next the pomelo and shrimp salad a la Marketman recipe.



  1. joy from la says:

    don’t wait till they’re golden brown. get them out when they’re still
    light in color. remember, when you take them out, there’s still residual heat left that will keep cooking the onions. also, stir the onions while frying. this makes for a crunchier
    by the way, i’m new to your blog. you are a serendipitous find. i thoroughly enjoy reading your articles including the comments from your readers. and i’ve also learned new stuff from you and your readers. thank you!

    Jun 21, 2010 | 2:44 am


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  3. joy from la says:

    p.s. happy father’s day!!! it’s still sunday in the us.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 2:48 am

  4. Rona Y says:

    My Thai dad used to heat up the pan, add the shallots, then turn the pan off. The residual heat should cook the shallots and make them crispy.

    He used to do fried garlic the same way, too.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 3:12 am

  5. betty q. says:

    Try this, MM…deep frying is the answer? I could be mistaken but I cannot see how those Thai restos make barrels of this by sauteeing? Slice the shallots not too thinly or they will brown too quickly. I am basing this from the garlic I make to top my peanuts. Then drop them in not too hot oil BUT DO NOT CROWD THEM! you might need to do your shallots in batches. If they are crowded, they will steam cook.

    If you have one of those deep fryers with a basket and you need to make a garapon of this, use that instead. That way, when they are getting to the beigy golden stage you can remove them ASAP or keep on dunking them like making french fries.

    NOw, I went to the market his morning and bought the stuff for your salad. I will be making an experiment too. You inspired me to do this. …no pomelo…used red grpaefruit instead.

    Ted: use BLANCO DE ORO if you can find them!

    MM, how about adding a touch of cocnut milk to the dressing. I learned this dressing from a well known chef and instructor here who specializes in Asian cuisine….Mr. Hyam! I sauteed some onions and a touch of ginger and added a bit of coconut milk, seasoned with a touch of patis…blitzed in a blender with a clove of roasted garlic. Then made a dressing of lime juice, patis, a touch of sugar, chili flakes, lime zest and pounded peanuts poured in some of Mr. Hyam`s coconut milk mixture. I used only a few tbsp. of the coconut mixutre since I don`t want teh coconut tastee to overpower the dressing. I am not a fan of dessicated coconut except in kakanin like Tibok Tibok. So I omitted the dessicated coconut and used a touch of coconut milk instead.

    A Thai classmate a long time ago, taught me her simple prawn salad. …the way she prepped her prawns is like ceviche style (or like your kinilaw) it is fresh spotted prawn season….so I used that (sooooo sweet!) and marinated for a few minutes in vinegar till they turned opaque and rinsed them to get rid of the vinegry taste and gently squeezed. It is soo good done this way, too and added it to the dressing and the rest of the goodies.

    I have to go back and get more grapefruits…The Thais sure knows their salads…..the symphony of flavours is unforgettable!

    OK…FOOTLOOSE! left hand is really sore now FROM TOO MUCH TYPING! Oh, that dressing above is also good poured over steamed SITAO!

    Jun 21, 2010 | 3:24 am

  6. Guits says:

    Betty Q!!!
    Welcome back… I have always thought of you as a part of marketmanila.com and your absence from the comment boards was surely missed.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 5:33 am

  7. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    OT: Hi Betty Q?!?!?!?!?! Where have you been hiding? Glad to see you here again

    Jun 21, 2010 | 6:58 am

  8. mayz says:

    try a regular slice instead of rings? also, break up the layers so the pieces don’t stick together. an indian friend who makes fried onions also says to mix in some corn flour for a lighter color and crisper texture — maybe it’ll work for shallots as well?

    Jun 21, 2010 | 7:26 am

  9. mayz says:

    oh — and lastly — take them out a little sooner than the golden brown you want as they continue to cook (and burn) out of the oil.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 7:28 am

  10. Betchay says:

    Betty Q: we really missed your nuggets of food tips!But what happened to your right hand?I hope everything is A-OK with you!

    Jun 21, 2010 | 7:33 am

  11. millet says:

    bettyq, yey, you’re back! as for using the dressing with steamed sitaw —that sounds like a brilliant suggestion! always looking for ways of dressing up plain veggies, will certainly try this very soon. i have a ton of camote tops and spinach from the garden, and i can think i can use your dressing.

    MM, this post is so comforting ;-) i’ve never been able to fry garlic and shallots without burning the whole batch. my helper, though, always does it perfectly. same way i can’t wrap a lumpia properly, it’s always too loose no matter how fat i make it.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 8:01 am

  12. hchie says:

    Maybe you can try tossing the onions in some corn flour before frying. Just make sure to shake off excess flour before putting it in the deep fryer. The thinner or smaller the onion bits the better. Hope this works.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 8:02 am

  13. Lizzy says:

    Here’s Ina Garten’s recipe for crispy shallots:

    1 1/2 cups light olive or vegetable oil
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

    Heat the oil and unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees F. Reduce the heat to low, add the shallots, and cook until they are a rich golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. The temperature should stay below 260 degrees F. Stir the shallots occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well, and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.


    Jun 21, 2010 | 8:18 am

  14. kitchen says:

    Hi Market Man Happy Father’s Day to you Heres a tip that i always do and i learned from my mentor chef, we call it the “cold start” start by putting the ingredients in the pot, then adding enough oil to submerge the ingredients by 1 inch, then start the fire. while the oil gets hot stir it constanly so it wont stick to tha bottom then it will reach temp to higher level as high as 300F watch it carefully as the ingredients turns to brown. when brown enough you might want to dish them out as it will continously cook a little because of “carry over cooking” you can also do this method with garlic. make sure they are even in their sizes.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 8:44 am

  15. solraya says:

    I don’t heat up the pan nor oil anymore. I have the garlic or shallots with the oil in a pan, then turn the fire/heat to very low . This is the way I saute too, from garlic and just add onions after the garlic turns that golden tan, so on with other ingredients. You get that taste that is perfect for a quick stir with veggies :)

    Jun 21, 2010 | 8:56 am

  16. APM says:

    Hi Marketman

    Our local shallots (I think they are called lasona) are quite difficult to fry without burning. Try deep frying them in a slow cooker (some people like to call this oil poaching).

    Jun 21, 2010 | 9:12 am

  17. junb says:

    Never done this from scratch too. I just run down to any near by store or supermarket as it is available anywhere here in Singapore. Good for anything from soup, fried rice to noodles. One thing I remember see the hawker cooking a batch of it is they keep on stirring the shallots till they are golden crispy. There’s also a mix of salt after they they have fried them.

    Betty Q…Welcome back…Good to see that you are back from your hibernation :)

    Jun 21, 2010 | 9:18 am

  18. Rob says:

    Whatever you do, SAVE the shallot oil. Use it for stir frying other foods. I’m sure you can think of other uses.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 10:31 am

  19. CaLeL says:

    Hi Marketman, i agree with solraya, its best that the shallots be added to the oil prior to turning on the heat. under slow fire, just let the shallots cook and turn off the heat before reaching the desired doneness. Cheers!

    Jun 21, 2010 | 11:24 am

  20. EbbaBlue says:

    I love fried shallots too as well as fried garlic and I often buy them in plastic container. I found a certain brand that is better than the rest. Its a Thai brand and can be found in just one of the many stores in my area (which is much farther than the rest); so I buy a lot when I can. I use these fried shallots in my Black Pepper Crabs, and the garlic in my fried rice. Yummy!

    Jun 21, 2010 | 11:27 am

  21. Bubut says:

    there is a recipe of that fried shallot at Bobby Chinn’s cook book. I’ll check that out and post it here.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 12:34 pm

  22. nikita says:

    Here’s what we used to do at the Asian “steakhouse” I used to work at in Boston:
    Slice shallots thinly, break layers apart
    Dust with cornstarch, use a sieve to get rid of excess cornstarch
    Fry until golden brown, lay on paper towels
    Sprinkle with salt right when they come out

    Hope that works out for you! :) Happy Father’s Day!

    Jun 21, 2010 | 2:07 pm

  23. Clarissa says:

    I remember trying to do this with garlic! since i couldn’t scoop the things out fast enough from the oil, I decided to use the used cooking oil metal container with the strainer! it was a disaster!!! i ended up burning the garlic black since it took me so long to pour (the oil was really hot) and it fried the garlic more. i have sadly never tried it again. :(

    Jun 21, 2010 | 3:45 pm

  24. hunter says:

    don’t despair if you can’t “get the simple things right”. my wizened 90+ year old ilocano neighbor always says that if a cook can fry onions and garlic “just right”, he can cook any dish he may fancy.

    her advice: fry in lots of oil, wait till the oil is hot before putting shallots, err on the side of undercooked and remove from the oil immediately.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 6:50 pm

  25. Connie C says:

    Isn’t it that what seems so simple is not really so simple?

    As much as I have tried ( imagine Merryl Streep as Julia in the scene from the movie “Julie and Julia” chopping a mountain of onions in an earnest effort to master the skill), I have never been able to toast garlic and make its heady aroma fill the air like my help does it, same with shallots, so, I just keep a jar of each handy ( the Thai brand) in my larder. No sweat.


    Jun 21, 2010 | 7:39 pm

  26. Rosedmd says:

    Hi bettyq!!!! Welcomeback.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 9:53 pm

  27. lee says:

    the smell of shallots frying brings back betty q back commenting. :)

    Jun 21, 2010 | 10:52 pm

  28. Footloose says:

    It seems counterintuitive to me to control heat at the beginning when it is not the problem at that point. The problem, if I may be allowed to define it once more, is towards the end of cooking when the shallots tend to get over-fried. You can eliminate the problem of the shallots continuing to cook once it reaches its optimum point by taking it out of the hot oil and cooling it down with a fan. Now learning to determine at what point it reaches doneness by visual clues may take some keen observation and repeated trials. It also helps to slice the shallots uniformly so they all fry at the same rate.

    Jun 21, 2010 | 10:54 pm

  29. Jack Hammer says:

    Sorry to sound Arrogant….but we Indians are the experts in caramelizing onions and the Thais and the Malays and the Indonesians learnt it from us. Mostly we use it to garnish Biryanis or Pilafs, along with roasted Cashew Nuts and Almonds and Pistachios and also raisins.

    The best way is very low fire and very little oil and light stirring from time to time so that all the onions crisp evenly. Copper or any other thick frying pan is the best. But I sometimes cheat and use Tefal Non-stick, when I am in a hurry. Wanna chat with the guests rather than slave in the kitchen when they are around.

    Another method is drying the onions in the sun under a Indian muslin cloth and then roasting them with very little or no oil, though sesame or peanut oil gives them a nutty flavour.

    Jun 22, 2010 | 2:23 am

  30. cwid says:

    Nice to see you posting again, Betty Q. Left a message for you on the Leche Flan post and it was to thank you for the mango pudding recipe which you shared with us. It is a great recipe and makes the best mango pudding.

    Jun 22, 2010 | 4:52 am

  31. teth says:

    Yeah! Welcome back BEtty Q! ‘miss your informative comments!

    Jun 22, 2010 | 3:54 pm

  32. Footloose says:

    Jack Hammer that’s not being arrogant… just the equivalent of blowing your own vuvuzela.

    Jun 22, 2010 | 5:54 pm

  33. kitchen says:

    Cooking them in room temp oil from the start helps them to be a little “blanched’ like in Making Home Fries. it gives the shallots interior an opportunity to soften and cook through before the exterior started to crisp. And despite that the temperature of the oil never got as hot as in the classic method, “frying them twice” one in less temp. then high temp next. it was still high enough to trigger the same reactions that led to a golden, nicely crisped crust. and i also agree with Footloose…learning to determine at what point it reaches doneness by visual clues may take some keen observation and repeated trials.

    Jun 22, 2010 | 6:30 pm

  34. shane says:

    to yield better results, spread out the thinly sliced shallots on a single layer to air dry or sun dry for several hours. fry in batches.

    Jun 24, 2010 | 2:15 pm

  35. Jack Hammer says:

    Aaaahh….Footloose…you mean I am being a nuisance like the vuvuzela….hahaha..

    Jun 26, 2010 | 4:46 pm

  36. Enteng says:

    I agree with nikita… dust it with flour before deep frying.

    fried shallots = perfect topping for lugaw!


    Jun 28, 2010 | 12:56 am

  37. BabyR says:

    Bettyq is right. Deep frying is the solution.

    Sep 2, 2010 | 10:05 pm

  38. Ray says:

    Yes, this Bawang Goreng is perfect match to any indonesian food

    Jan 28, 2011 | 8:56 pm


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