What is the fish paste in Myanmar

Exploring the Savory World of Ngapi: A Tangy Dive into Burmese Cuisine


In the realm of culinary treasures, Ngapi stands out as a pungent delight that has graced Burmese cuisine for generations. Formerly spelled in various ways, such as ngapee, nga-pee, and gnapee, this distinct paste is a hallmark of Burmese flavor profiles. Crafted from a blend of fish or shrimp, Ngapi takes diners on a journey through rich tastes and aromas, adding depth to dishes and elevating meals to a new level of sensory satisfaction.

Crafting Ngapi: An Art of Fermentation

At the heart of Ngapi’s allure lies its intricate creation process. Typically, this savory paste comes into existence through the fermentation of fish or shrimp. The journey begins with salting and grinding the seafood, followed by the essential step of sun-drying. Through the art of fermentation, Ngapi transforms into a pungent masterpiece, capturing the essence of the sea and the warmth of the sun.

A Flavorful Symphony on the Plate

Ngapi’s role in Burmese cuisine is that of a condiment and seasoning, enhancing the taste profiles of various dishes. The result of this transformation is a thick and concentrated paste, lovingly cooked over an extended period. This meticulous process yields a condiment that not only adds flavor but also depth and complexity to the culinary canvas.

Variations in Preservation and Flavor

Ngapi artisans bring their unique touch to the craft, resulting in variations in taste and preservation methods. Some creators introduce a touch of oil or salt to the paste, contributing to its preservation. Others prefer a more natural fermentation process, allowing time and nature to weave their magic. The distinctiveness of Ngapi’s flavor and aroma owes itself to factors like the type of seafood used and the duration of fermentation.

Navigating Nutritional Nuances

Diving into the nutritional aspect of Ngapi reveals a spectrum of values. While the paste itself boasts a rich flavor profile, it’s essential to consider its nutritional content. A popular brand, Peck’s Anchovette Fish Paste, for instance, delivers 1g total carbs, 0.7g net carbs, 1.3g fat, 4.3g protein, and 33 calories in a single serving. For individuals mindful of cholesterol levels, it’s advisable to steer clear of fish high in saturated fats and excessive calories. Opting for leaner options like shrimps, trout, mackerel, tuna, and swordfish can strike a balance between indulgence and health consciousness.

Fish Varieties and Cholesterol Considerations

Amongst the myriad of seafood choices, it’s important to make informed decisions, especially for those aiming to manage cholesterol levels. While Ngapi itself carries the charm of tradition and taste, some fish options are better suited for cholesterol-conscious individuals. Oily fish, known for their rich flavors, should be balanced with the awareness of their nutritional profile. Fishes like shrimps, trout, mackerel, tuna, and swordfish should be consumed mindfully, with an eye on moderating cholesterol intake.


Ngapi, with its history, craftsmanship, and culinary charm, remains an embodiment of Burmese culture and gastronomy. As you venture into the world of this savory paste, relishing its intricate flavors and acknowledging its nutritional nuances can provide a more holistic appreciation. Whether as a complement to a dish or a standalone indulgence, Ngapi’s presence on the plate is a testament to the artistry of food and the tapestry of cultures it weaves.

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