Crispy Fried Shallots
Is it just me or does every dish seem tastier with crispy fried shallots as topping? Noodles, soupy dishes, curries, rice… That beautiful golden color, the crunch when you bite, and the sweet caramel taste! And the aroma when you’re frying them – so heavenly…
For years I tried making fried shallots. They came kind of close, but not really. They were a little bit soggy, a little oily, not really crunchy, or they’d be burnt. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I used to resort to going to Chinatown and buying big jars of the pre-made fried shallots, but inevitably after a few weeks of opening they would start tasting weirdly of preservatives and I’d have to throw them out.
Then a few years ago, while my mom was still alive and healthy, full of her usual energy and bright spirit and chatter, spreading her boundless joy on all of us – she was visiting, was cooking something and making crispy fried shallots for it. I watched her and was surprised. First, she used a lot oil to properly submerge the shallot slices and give them space to float and cook in the oil (unlike the tiny little quantity I used). She didn’t use high heat, she let it cook for a while, and stirred frequently. And when she did take them out, she spread them out to dry and cool down properly – at which point they became perfectly crispy. Basically the opposite of everything I’d been doing.
So since then I’ve been able to make crispy fried shallots (known as beresta in Bengali) that come out the way they should be. They’re actually really easy to make, it’s just that I didn’t know the method before. Here’s my mom’s method.
Crispy Fried Shallots | Beresta
- 1 large shallot, sliced into thin rings
- About 5 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil (you can save and reuse most of this flavored oil later)
- Peel and slice the shallot into thin rings.
- Add oil to a pan with a small base. The oil should be about a quarter inch deep, so that it can cover all the shallot slices (if you have a small base, you won’t need a huge amount of oil).
- Heat the oil over medium heat (don’t use high heat).
- You want to get the oil temperature right before you add the shallots.If you put the shallots in before the oil is hot, they’ll absorb more oil and won’t get crispy. Start testing after a minute to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a single shallot ring in the oil. If it starts bubbling right away, then it’s hot. But don’t wait for it to get too hot, otherwise the shallots will burn.
- When oil is hot, add the shallot rings.
- Stir frequently so that the shallots don’t burn. They’ll fry slowly and caramelize nicely. When they are a nice golden brown (you’ll have a fantastic aroma at this point), about 5-7 minutes, take a slotted spoon and remove the shallots from the oil. (If you’re using more shallots, you may need more time).
- Spread the shallots over a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. They’ll become nice and crispy when cool. Don’t cover the shallots or store in a container until they are completely cool, otherwise they’ll get soggy. Best to serve the same day.