Shallot oil is the unsung hero in simple Asian cooking, the secret piece to that "I-love-it-but-I-don't-know-what-it-is" puzzle (true story). Simply put, it is oil infused with the aromatic shallot that can easily be made by frying sliced shallots and then preserving the oil.
The fragrant oil can be used in stir-fries in place of normal oil or drizzled over soups. It is in fact a vital flavor in the Malaysian soy sauce noodles known as Kon Loh Mee and really ups the flavor in the minimal Asian-style blanched vegetables.
Let's not forget the crispy fried shallots that come out of the simple process of making shallot oil. These tasty crunchy bits are your secret weapon to dressing up fried rice, noodles, soups, vegetable dishes, and even salads.
Shallot is the onion of Southeast Asian cooking. Known as "bawang merah" in Malay, meaning red onion, it is an important ingredient in the Malaysian spice paste called "rempah", which I use to make beetroot rendang and spicy tomato. It is a member of the onion family but is smaller in size, light purple in color with papery copper skin, and has the shape of a garlic clove.
You will need: 2 large shallots + 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying.
1. Peel the shallots, rinse under running water, and pat dry. Slice them thinly on the cross section.
2. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Test the oil by putting a slice of shallot in. When it starts to sizzle, add the rest of the sliced shallots and lower the heat to medium.
3. Fry the sliced shallots, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden. The oil should sizzle gently around the shallots. If they brown too quickly, lower the heat. It's important to pay attention to this step to prevent burning, which will make the shallots and oil bitter.
4. When most of the sliced shallots have turned from golden to brown, turn off the heat. Let the shallots sit in the oil and continue to fry until they turn a darker brown color. This process can take anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Remove the shallots from the oil and drain in a metal strainer. Spread the fried shallots on a plate lined with paper towel to dry and cool. Store the shallots in an airtight container.
6. Allow the oil to cool and then strain it. Store the oil in a covered jar.
Use it! Shallot oil and crispy shallots are used in making Malaysian Soy Sauce Noodles (below).