Shrimp pastes may vary in appearance from pale liquid sauces to solid chocolate-colored blocks. Shrimp paste produced in Hong Kong and Vietnam is typically a light pinkish gray while the type used for Burmese, Lao, Cambodian, Thai and Indonesian cooking is darker brown. While all shrimp paste has a pungent aroma, that of higher grades is generally milder. Markets near villages producing shrimp paste are the best places to obtain the highest quality product. Shrimp paste varies between different Asian cultures and can vary in smell, texture and saltiness.
A watery dip or condiment that is very popular in Myanmar, especially the Burmese and Karen ethnic groups. The ngapi (either fish or shrimp, but mostly whole fish ngapi is used) is boiled with onions
, pepper and other spices. The result is a greenish-grey broth-like sauce, which makes its way to every Burmese dining table. Fresh, raw or blanched vegetables and fruits (such as mint
, tomatoes, green mangoes, green apples, olives
, chilli, onions and garlic) are dipped into the ngapi yay and eaten. Sometimes, in less affluent families, ngapi yay forms the main dish, and also the main source of protein.