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Dried shrimp are shrimp that have been sun-dried until very small for preservation purposes. They are used in many Asian cuisines, to impart a unique umami and seafood-like taste. In Chinese cuisine, dried shrimp are extensively used in the northern and southern cuisines.
Dried shrimp can generally be separated into three categories – shelled shrimp, shell-on shrimp, and tiny shell-on shrimp.
As a rule of thumb, dried shrimp always require pre-soaking before cooking, so they can release more flavor. For soups and braised dishes, you can soak the dried shrimp for a shorter duration (30 mins to 1 hour) because they will loosen up during cooking. If you’re using the dried shrimp in dumpling filling or meatballs, you’ll need to soak them longer (3 hours to overnight). Some recipes, such as Pad Thai, only require pounding the shrimp to loosen their texture before adding them into the stir fry.