Krill Sauce, a key ingredient in many Macanese dishes

Balichão is central to Macanese cooking. Often called “prawn sauce”, it was in fact made using fresh krill (a crustacean resembling a tiny shrimp) which although occuring in vast quantities in the oceans is very difficult to obtain for domestic use.

Here are some recipes: one using krill, another using prawns and two that use Phillipine Bagoong Alamang which is readily available from Asian groceries. Some cooks replace krill with Malaysian blachan (very strongly flavoured shrimp paste, in block or powder form) but, in this writer’s opinion, the result is less successful.

Raw balichão has a strong odour that many would find offensive but it adds magic to dishes. It is considered an essential relish to accompany dishes like tacho. Many Macanese like it so much that they add a dash of balichão to savoury dishes even when not called for in the recipe.

Folklore had it that after preparation it had to be stored for 99 days and that entry into the house by a pregnant woman during this time would destroy the entire batch.

Balichung Relish (Balilchão Frito) from “Guilly” Canavarro Remedios: Heat ¼ cup lard and when quite hot add 1 large onion or 8 spring onions, diced, and fry till tender. Add 2 tsp balichão and fry for 2-3 mins.

Balichão from HA d’Assumpção

2 x 250ml jars of Bagoong Alamang (Filipino preserved krill, called salted shrimp fry), available from some Asian groceries)
8 oz | 25g salt
3 US fl oz | 100ml brandy
1 tsp peppercorns
0.2 oz | 6g bay leaves
1 small lime, sliced finely and cut into eighths
3 small chillies, sliced
1 tsp whole cloves
1½ US fl oz | 40ml lemon juice

Mix well, seal in a jar and store (the folklore has that it has to be stored for 99 days).

Balichão from Angelina Augusta dos Remedios, courtesy of Therese Alonço and Yvonne Husband

20 oz |600ml jar shrimp sauce (from Philippines)
1 cup brandy
1 fresh lemon, shredded into thin pieces
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp peppercorns
12 bay leaves
4 pieces of dried chilli

Use a blender to chop the shrimp paste if desired.
Mix all the ingredients together, bottle and store for one month before using.
After opening the bottle(s), reseal with cling wrap.

Balichão from Inês Figueiredo

10 catties | 6kg krill*
1.5kg coarse salt
1 cent’s worth of whole white pepper
1 cent’s worth of powdered pepper
1.5 kg of cinho fogo (sam cheng chow in Cantonese)
20 bay leaves
10 chillies
a pinch of saltpeter
2 lemons (one sliced and only the peel of the second)

Pick out the little stones and straw that may be found in the fresh krill.

Stir together all the ingredients, put them in an earthenware jar, cover tightly so that no air gets in. Keep in a dark cool place for a couple of months.

 * Japanese salted shrimps, which are available, are very small and may perhaps serve if crushed and mashed. – “Guilly” Canavarro Remedios

Balichão from Partido dos Comes e Bebes

5kg small dark shrimps
1kg salt
1 medium lemon
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cup brandy
5 chillies

Variation: Another recipe uses a dessertspoon of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), twice as much salt, 20 bay leaves and a whole bottle of brandy.

Wash the shrimps, drain well and put them through a passe-vite (food mill).

Add the shrimps and salt alternately into a bowl and let stand for 24 hours. Add the peppercorns, sliced lemon, cloves, bay leaves, chillies and brandy and mix to a uniform paste.

Store in jars for 40 days

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