Shrimp Chips: A Crispy, Light Snack (Plus How to Make Them at Home!)

by Krystina Quintana

Japanese Prawn crackers

Haven't heard of shrimp chips before? Then, you're missing out on one of the best options in snack cuisine: fried prawn crackers with a delicious crispy texture and light consistency. These prawn crackers have a lightly sweet seafood flavor that makes them addictive and hard to put back in the cupboard.

Still curious about shrimp chips? Continue reading to learn more about this Asian snack, including what types are available and how to make homemade shrimp chips.

What is a shrimp chip made of?

This traditional snack has varying ingredients, depending on which variety you eat. For example, Chinese shrimp chips are typically made with tapioca flour, seasonings, and dried shrimp powder or fresh crustacean shellfish (shrimp) pieces, which offer a more noodle-like flavor. Depending on the brand of shrimp chips purchased, the chips may actually be made from prawn shells or extract instead of real shrimp. You may also see ingredients like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) used in ready-to-eat shrimp chips.

If shrimp powder is used, the mixture is combined with water to turn into a dough. This dough is rolled out, shaped into crackers, and then dried. Once purchased, they are deep fried at home or in Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants and enjoyed! In some versions of this dish, the prawn crackers feature bright colors, so coloring may also be added to the cracker dough.

Seasonings like salt, pepper, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are also added to the prawn crackers for additional flavor. They're typically eaten as snacks/appetizers in Chinese culture. It's common to see Chinese parents/grandparents making large batches of shrimp chips for Chinese New Year for the kids/younger family members.

These chips are considered healthier than potato chips, as they're lower in calories and higher in protein. Because of this, you'll often see prawn crackers available at Asian markets/convenience stores. They've grown so popular recently that they're even considered a competitor to potato chips.

History of Shrimp Chips

Shrimp chips are not a new snack food in East Asia. They have supposedly been around since about the 16th century when they were first made in West Malaysia. According to legend, the first batch was created with leftover shrimp heads from a feast to avoid food waste. There is some debate on the origins of shrimp chips. Some claim they were first created in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Others believe shrimp chips had an even earlier start in the 9th century. Some inscriptions in Java mention krupuk rambak, which means "cow skin crackers." While the inscriptions don't exactly match the wording for prawn chips, the cow skin crackers were thought to be replicated with other ingredients, like shrimp bits. Specifically, the Sumatra area is known for using shrimp/fish in their crackers as a way to lengthen the shelf life of seafood.

Even though shrimp chips have been popular for years, they did not leave East Asia until the 1800s. During the 19th century, prawn crackers were brought back from Asia to Europe and replicated with various ingredients/flavors. From there, they continued to spread around the world.

Chinese Prawn Crackers Recipe

Chinese prawn crackers are typically sold dried, so they can be cooked in hot oil by the consumer. Since they're purchased dried, they have quite a long shelf life. They are often available in various colors, like pink, white, and green. One primary difference with Chinese shrimp chips is that they usually include cornstarch or tapioca flour to thicken the dough. Here's a recipe you can recreate at home for Chinese prawn crackers.

Chinese prawn crackers

Ingredients

  • Shrimp meat (use prepared peeled/deveined shrimp)

  • Cold water

  • Sugar

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Ginger/Garlic powder

  • Tapioca starch

Directions

  1. Chop prepped shrimp. If frozen, defrost and remove excess moisture with paper towels.

  2. Combine shrimp with seasoning and water in a blender. Puree the mixture until smooth.

  3. Mix shrimp paste in a bowl with tapioca starch. Knead for about five minutes until you have a smooth dough (it should not be sticky).

  4. Form the dough into a log, split it into six pieces, and boil for about 35 minutes.

  5. Allow the cooked pieces to dry in the fridge overnight.

  6. Then, slice thinly and place slices in a single layer on a cooling rack. Allow them to sit in sunlight for two days or until they are fully dried/have a crispy texture.

  7. Store your homemade shrimp chips in an airtight container or bag for up to six months. Ensure you keep them in a cool, dry location.

Finna Pars Shrimp Crackers: Chili & Lime

These Pars Shrimp Crackers are a top snack choice in Indonesia, and it's easy to see why! They're crispy, airy, and uber-tasty. Each bite offers a savory shrimp taste accentuated by a spicy, zesty chili & lime seasoning. These shrimp crackers make an excellent crunchy salad topping.

Common Allergens: Shellfish, Soy.

$4.99
2.5 oz

Korean Shrimp Crackers

Another variation of prawn crackers is the variety from Korea. These chips typically include wheat flour and soy sauce. They have a bold, umami, savory flavor that differentiates them from other types of prawn crackers. This variety is considered to have a more "bready" consistency because of the wheat flour.

If you're hunting for these shrimp crackers, you'll need to look for the word "Saeukkang". This means shrimp cracker in Korean. In Korea, the top brand of shrimp chips is Nongshim, which has been producing prawn crackers since 1971. Nongshim Shrimp Chips come in various flavors, including original, hot & spicy, spicy, rice, and more. They are sold already prepared, so you can enjoy them directly from the bag.

Nongshim Shrimp Chips: Regular

Upon opening this bag, you’ll be hit with the shrimply irresistible smell of the ocean. Made with fresh flour and real ground shrimp, these baked Korean Shrimp chips have a crinkle cut fry shape for an irresistible texture and crunch.

Common Allergens: Milk, Fish, Shellfish, Wheat, Soy.

$3.49
2.6 oz

Thai Prawn Cracker

Like Korean shrimp chips, Thai prawn crackers have quite a different flavor. They're made with sweet Thai chili, so they have a complex sweet, and spicy taste. Their consistency is closer to Chinese shrimp chips, as they contain tapioca flour. Though they share this ingredient, Thai shrimp chips have a much darker color than the Chinese version.

Thai prawn crackers are great by themselves, with seafood dishes, or with Thai takeout. They're also an excellent pairing with beer. You can serve these prawn crackers with sweet Thai chili sauce on the side for a bolder flavor.

Thai shrimp chips

Calbee Shrimp Chips, Original Baked Flavor

Calbee is a popular Japanese brand known for its shrimp chips and other savory snack foods. This brand got its start in 1949, after WWII by Takashi Matsuo. It was created to help with the food shortages after the war. The company's goal was to use food sources/ingredients that were more uncommonly used. They made sure nutrients like B-1 and Calcium were included in their snacks. However, Calbee's snacks are not considered healthy. Instead, they were meant as a supplement to help keep people full at the time.

The first product Calbee came up with was caramel candies, made with ingredients like yam starch. Matsuo continued experimenting, eventually releasing arare crackers in 1955, which became quite popular. Because of its popularity, Calbee switched to savory snacks instead of sweets.

While one of the most popular snacks that Calbee produces is its shrimp chips, they were not created until 1964. Matsuo had experience as a shrimper, which allowed him to create shrimp chips with real pieces of shellfish. At the time, wheat flour was a more affordable ingredient. So, he used wheat flour and shrimp pieces to create the beloved Calbee shrimp chips. They also feature ingredients like cornstarch, sugar, and salt. This snack quickly gained popularity, especially after it was featured in a snappy 1969 commercial with the tagline "yamerarenai tomaranai" ("can't quit, can't stop.").

In the past few years, the number of Calbee shrimp chips purchased in the US has continually increased to millions annually. Since they were invented, Calbee has come out with additional flavors like Yuzu PepperHot GarlicWasabi, and White Shrimp.

Calbee Shrimp Chips: Yuzu Pepper

This snack packs the best of the original - extremely crispy, lightly salted, and flavored to perfection with Calbee’s signature fresh shrimp taste—but this time with a dash of je ne se quois that makes the foodies flock. Want to know the secret? Little flashes of heat from black pepper and a clean brightness from yuzu, a beloved aromatic citrus fruit.

Common Allergens: Milk, Eggs, Fish, Shellfish, Tree Nuts, Peanuts, Wheat, Soy.

$3.99
3.3 oz

Ideal Dough Texture

Getting the right dough texture is the key to making the best homemade shrimp chips. The goal of kneading the dough for the shrimp chips is to get a soft, smooth dough. If you're kneading overly sticky dough, add a small amount of tapioca flour to help decrease the stickiness. Likewise, if the dough is too dry, add a small amount of water. Additionally, if the dough is too difficult to knead, you may also need to add some water.

Calbee Shrimp chips

How to Make Fried Prawn Crackers (Hint: Fry in Batches!)

Once you have prepared homemade Chinese shrimp chips, it's time to fry them up so you can enjoy their savory seafood flavor! Here's how you can create yummy, puffed prawn crackers by deep-frying dried shrimp chips:

  1. Heat a frying pan with about one inch of oil on medium heat. The oil is ready when it is about 350F. It will take about 5-10 minutes for the oil to heat up. You can test it by putting one shrimp chip in and seeing if it puffs up quickly.

  2. Once the oil is heated, add shrimp chips in batches. They need to have sufficient room to puff up. You can add about 10-12 in at a time, depending on the size of your frying pan.

  3. As soon as you put the dried chips into the oil, use a slotted spoon to press them into the oil. They will puff up in a few seconds. The prawn crackers are ready when they're golden brown.

  4. Once puffed, remove the chips with a slotted spoon. Place fried prawn crackers on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath so the excess oil can drain off.

  5. As soon as the chips have cooled, they're ready to eat! Avoid frying too many chips at a time; they're best (and crunchiest!) when they're freshly made.

Raw prawn crackers

Homemade Shrimp Chips Tips

  1. Keep dried chips in a cool environment. The best way to extend the shelf life of homemade dried shrimp chips is by keeping them in a cool, dark environment. A few options include the cupboard or pantry. They should not sit in a sunny spot in the kitchen or in a humid environment.

  2. Fry in neutral oil. It's necessary to fry shrimp chips in a neutral oil like canola or peanut to let their flavor shine through. Using a stronger-tasting oil (like sesame oil) will change the flavor of the chips, and you may not get the subtle sweetness typically found in prawn crackers.

  3. Use a thermometer for the oil. While you can test the oil temperature with a dried chip (as noted above), using a thermometer is best. That way, you know if the oil is too hot or cold. Aim for 350F for the best results.

  4. Only fry what you can eat in a few days. Once fried, shrimp chips only stay crunchy for a few days. Don't try to fry too many at once. Instead, only fry what you can eat the same day (or within the next few days).

Now that you're a shrimp chips expert consider pairing them with a yummy drink or sweet treat from Bokksu Market. Here, you'll also find other delicious salty snacks from various Asian countries.


Author Bio

Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.