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I recently saw a recipe for vatapa, a Brazilian shrimp stew that looks kind of like a curry gravy in texture. The recipe calls for a reconstituting handful of dried shrimp and then blending it into a paste. Could I substitute a jar of shrimp paste from my local Vietnamese/Thai grocery store, or would dried shrimp be the most appropriate thing to use?

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Asian shrimp paste is fermented and very strong and salty — I don't think it's going to give you the same kind of flavor as dried shrimp at all.

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While Asian shrimp paste might not be an ideal substitute for the reasons @Henry Jackson mentioned, dried shrimp can be often found in Korean shops since it is often used in Kimchee preparation. These will work well for Vatapá.

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The vatapá we do is not exactly made that way, but don't use anything other than dried shrimp, as it will not taste like the original recipe. What you can do is to buy the shrimps, fresh or frozen, you can season a little with lemon, paprika, salt and pepper. Grill them in the pan with a little bit of oil, until they change color (this should take only a few minutes) and then put them in a baking pan and let it roast at low temperature (160°C or 320°F) for 1 hour or until they get very dry and wonderful. After cooling, shred them in a food processor or blender and use in your recipe.

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