“They realized that [dried shrimp] could be shipped and go all over the world because we have so much shrimp and so many seasons of shrimp here,” added Williams. “You have river shrimp, you have white shrimp, you have brown shrimp, and they don’t all run at once.”
John Folse, chef, restaurateur and expert on Cajun and Creole cuisine, remembers there was always a bucket of dried shrimp on the back porch of his childhood home in St James Parish, Louisiana in the 1950s Like many Cajun families, his family ate what they harvested, hunted, or preserved themselves. And like the Filipino settlers, Folse’s grandfathers also sun-dried shrimp. They would catch them, throw salt on them and spread them on a table outside during the day and cover them at night. “You see, [dried shrimp] was almost like a gift that kept coming throughout the season when everything else was sold out,” he said. “We could always count on the fact that we had kept this particular ingredient.
“Along with bland veggies like eggplant and squash from our gardens, the dried shrimp was perfect for bringing that explosive flavor that we just couldn’t pull off by putting crabmeat or regular shrimp on it,” Folse added. . “The smoked sausages like the smoked andouille were really, really expensive, and the jerky prawns were available all the time. So when I think about it, I’m like, ‘My god, what would we have? do without it?’ “
For visitors today, the dried shrimp are most visible hanging in small bags in the checkout lines of local grocery stores. These bags carry names like Blum & Bergeron — typical Louisiana surnames that show just how entrenched the product is in the state’s culinary landscape. In fact, many locals are unlikely to recognize the food’s early Filipino origins, and that’s because the history of Saint Malo itself has been largely forgotten.