How To Make Petis Udang or Hei Ko (Prawn Paste)

This prawn paste is sometimes called shrimp paste (not to be confused with belacan/terasi; I know, it’s confusing), and it’s best known as the base for Penang rojak aka fruit rojak, and as a topping/dip for Penang Assam Laksa. It’s molassy, dark brown, sweet and pungent. In Chinese it’s known as Hei Ko, and in Malay it’s called Petis Udang or Otak Udang.

Awhile back, one of my followers asked me if I knew how to make it – as is often the case I’ve forgotten who it was, so hopefully she signed up for my email list so she doesn’t miss out when this gets pushed out to my audience.

Since petis udang is so readily available in Malaysia, and to a lesser extent here in Sydney, Australia, it had never cross my mind to attempt making it myself. I decided to look into it and found a handful of recipes courtesy of my Sydney University Bachelor of Arts in Languages and our neighbours in Indonesia (the recipes are in Indonesian).




250g prawn shells, including heads

800ml water

250g palm sugar or brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 TBSPS butter

White sugar to taste


  1. Combine prawn shells and water in a blender, and blend into a coarse consistency.
  2. Transfer into a deep saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about one hour.
  3. Strain and discard the prawn shells; transfer the liquid into another saucepan.
  4. Add all other ingredients and simmer, stirring gently, until thickened to the consistency and colour you want.
  5. Pour into glass jar, allow to cool, then secure with lid. Keep in refrigerator once opened.


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