How to Make Crispy Fried Shallots or Onions

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This is the first in my new series of Asian Cooking 101 – Tips and Techniques, and I’m starting off with how to make your own crispy fried onions or fried shallots. Click here to watch on YouTube >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdQ2jxKzk4c I use the term interchangeably because they yield very similar results – you can experiment with different shallots/onions to see how they turn out. Asian shallots are very expensive here in Sydney (at over AUD$10/kg) plus they’re fiddly to peel and slice due to their small bulbs, so I mostly buy brown onions, which I can get for one-tenth the price and are much easier to peel.

Utensils used in making fried crispy onions.

Utensils used in making fried crispy onions.

It’s nice to make things from scratch but I was the ultimate busy cook as someone who ran and was head cook in my own perennially short-staffed restaurant so I do apply a lot of shortcuts to my recipes whilst trying to retain flavour and “authenticity” (a loaded term, about which I shall write another time), as you would know if you’ve followed my work for awhile. Nevertheless, this is one of those things that are definitely worth your investment in time to make yourself – the texture and flavour is incomparable to commercially-available fried shallots. It stores practically indefinitely outside the fridge, so I would suggest this as something you can do once in a while on a weekend, and then keep for weeks or months. Hide it from your dinner guests though; if they’re anything like my family they’ll be grabbing fistfuls of them to drown in their bowls or plates of noodles – it’s very addictive. I don’t know if this is across the board, but if you do resort to commercial fried onions/shallots, you might want to check the ingredients list – I’ve always found the fried onions in Asian grocery stores contain cornflour – presumably to absorb the extra water content in onions prior to frying. Fried shallots tend to cost a fair bit more (nearly double that of fried onions) but certainly the brands I buy are, according to the listed ingredients, purely shallots and oil – so you’re not paying for bulk in the form of flour. If you live in Southeast Asian-dense neighbourhoods in Sydney, you might come across local cottage industry-type fried shallots packed in takeaway containers at the counter of Asian grocery stores; they’re a great step up from the imported, factory-packed ones, but I still think homemade tastes better, and costs a lot less as well. Key points from the video above – 

  • Make sure the onions are sliced thinly and evenly – this means hand-slicing, unless someone knows of a food processor that can achieve the same result.
  • Keep moving the onions around in the wok as they tend to cook fastest around the rim.
  • Remember to remove the onions BEFORE they look ready – ie. a creamy, very light brown hue – otherwise you’ll end up with burnt onions, since the heat from the oil will continue to darken the onions after you remove them from the wok.
  • Scatter the onions loosely on paper towels; if they’re in a big lump the steam will get trapped and cause the onions to go soggy.
  • Allow to cool completely before storing, otherwise they’ll go soft.

Good luck and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel >> http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=jackiemsydney – so you don’t miss out on the rest of this series 🙂

Homemade fried onions cooling on paper towels.

Homemade fried onions cooling on paper towels.

ps. Did I mention this video was made using my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro laptop? The overhead shots were from an external webcam clamped onto my exhaust hood but the rest of the video used the built-in webcam. And yes, thanks to my aversion to watching myself on camera, I missed the video editor’s typo on one of the text overlays until I had signed off on the work. Let’s see if you pick it up 😉

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