29 January 2015

Spicy Dried Shrimp Sambal (Hae Bee Hiam) Cookies with homemade hae bee hiam

I first learnt about Hae Bee Hiam cookie from a dear friend WH last CNY; he told me that it's very yummy and addictive. He tried it at this shop called The Cookie Museum. Was quite curious about the taste since I like salty sweet type of cookies and so when I chanced upon The Cookie Museum's stall at Takashimaya basement food hall, I definitely had to try it. The sampling cookie was about 20 cents size stored in little glass jars and I quite liked such pop size cookies. It was crunchy, spicy and salty. Not bad. Initially wanted to buy a jar, but those were for sampling only! The actual size of the cookies for sale is big and comes in a large tin. Nay, not buying because I know I won't be able to finish the whole lot. Probably I could try baking them myself? So I researched the internet for recipes on both hae bee hiam and cookies and bookmarked a few to try.

Then last August, Chef Joycelyn Shu conducted a demo class on Heirloom Snacks at Shermay's Cooking School and one of the recipes featured was Hae Bee Hiam cookies. I jumped at the opportunity to attend the class and learnt many tips from Chef Joycelyn.

The first part to the cookie was cooking the hae bee hiam. Well, I could buy ready-made ones from grocery stores and supermarkets but nothing beats homemade right? I will share more about hae bee hiam below, after the cookie recipe.

Next part is the cookie dough; some recipes on the internet use a straightforward butter cookie method, and as for Chef Joycelyn, hers was more of shortbread texture by adding corn flour and icing sugar. Her cookies were very nice at first bite, but a tad too salty and overwhelming, I found myself eating one piece and couldn't eat anymore. So I adapted the recipe with references from various sources, tested it a few times with taste-tests from some friends as well. For the past versions, friends commented that it was not spicy enough, some said it's interesting and special. Haha. WH tried and he liked it. Yay!

Anyways, the current version is an improved version, both the cookie dough (slightly shortbread texture which I prefer) and hae bee hiam. I quite like it, but I guess will continue to tweak the recipe here and there based on feedback. When I was baking the cookie, the entire house was filled with the combined aroma of hae bee hiam and butter! Intoxicating! And the cookie is addictive, kept popping one after another. They turned soft fairly quickly when I left them on the baking tray for too long, probably due to our humid weather. Got to keep them in airtight container as soon as they are cooled. Probably reduce the corn flour, or use caster sugar instead of icing sugar. Will try for the next batch.

Spicy Dried Shrimp Sambal (Hae Bee Hiam) Cookies
(yields about 138-140 pcs, using 3cm diameter fluted cutter)

  • 160g Plain flour
  • 50g Corn flour
  • 160g Unsalted butter, cubed and slightly softened
  • 50g Icing sugar
  • 200g Hae Bee Hiam (see recipe below)
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp Fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Chilli flakes/powder or Korean Gochugaru
  • 1/2 tsp Fine shrimp sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Fine salt
  • Zest of 1 thai lime and 2 small lime
  1. Sift plain flour and corn flour together. Set aside.
  2. If hae bee hiam is too chunky, take about 3/4 portion and use a food chopper to blend till flossy. 
  3. In a mixing bowl, add butter and icing sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy about 3-4 mins, stopping to scrap bowl as necessary.
  4. Add hae bee hiam, fish sauce, chilli powder, shrimp sauce, salt and lime zest. Mix until well-combined.
  5. Add flour mixture in 2-3 additions, till just combined.
  6. Divide the dough into 3 portions. Place each portion between 2 sheets of cut-up clear plastic bags. Use a rolling pin to roll and flatten the dough into 6mm even thickness dough sheet.
  7. Place the dough sheets in the fridge to chill for an hour or freezer for 30 mins so that the dough will be firm enough to stamp.
  8. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 160 degree celsius on fan mode. Line baking tray with Silpat mat or parchment paper.
  9. Work on 1 sheet of dough each time. Open the top plastic sheet, stamp dough using 3cm flutter cookie cutter and place cookie onto the baking tray. For the scraps, gather into dough again and repeat step 6-7. Repeat till all dough used up.
  10. Bake the cookies at 160 degree celsius for 12 mins. Once done, let the cookies cool completely and store them in air-tight container, for up to 2 weeks.

Ahhh, Hae Bee Hiam or Spicy Dried Shrimp Sambal. I didn't think much of this condiment which is easily taken for granted because it's so common here in Asian. While store-bought ones are readily available, many households choose to cook their own and each holds their personal concoction passed down from mums to mums. We ate them with steamed rice, nasi lemak, stir fry it with vegetables and during CNY, wrap it in mini spring roll wrappers and deep fry them. I love munching on hae bee hiam rolls!

While searching on the internet for recipes, I saw many that used dried shrimp, dried/fresh chilli, shallots and garlic which is the typical recipe. Then I found some recipes which are nonya style, with the addition of more spices like belachan, lemongrass, candlenut, tumeric, kaffir lime leaves... I love the use of aromatic spices especially lemongrass so decided to use the nonya version. Actually I dislike frying rempah at home, it's a tedious and tiring job! But what to do, I want to try everything from scratch (was so tempted to just buy a bottle from supermarket to make the cookies!).

The ingredients include dried shrimp (partly ground), belachan, gula melaka, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, candlenut, small red chilli, kaffir lime leaves, ground tumeric and tamarind water.

For the frying part, oil, tamarind water (tamarind pulp + water), shaved gula melaka and the rempah spice paste (belachan, chilli, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, candlenut, kaffir lime leaves, ground tumeric),

Spicy Dried Shrimp Sambal (Hae Bee Hiam)
(Yields about 615g)

  • 300g Dried shrimp, rinsed and drained
Tamarind water
  • 50g Tamarind pulp
  • 80ml Water
Rempah spice paste
  • 3/4 tsp Belachan, slightly toasted
  • 30 cloves Garlic
  • 15 Shallots
  • 15 Small red chilli (discard seeds if prefer less spicy)
  • 3 stalks Lemongrass, inner tender sections, last 8cm
  • 3 Candlenut
  • 3/4 Tbsp Ground tumeric
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves, cut into tiny pieces
  • 160ml Cooking oil
  • 80 Gula Melaka, shaved
  1. Grind the dried shrimp using a food processor or electric chopper till partly chunky and partly flossy. Then pan-fry (without oil) for a few mins until aromatic. Set aside.
  2. Add water to the tamarind pulp, rub the pulp to extract more flavour. Then strain to get tamarind water (squeeze pulp to get as much juice as possible). Set aside.
  3. Using food processor or electric chopper, grind the garlic, shallots, chilli, lemongrass, candlenut and belachan until they turn into a paste. Add ground tumeric and kaffir lime leaves, mix till well-blended.
  4. Add cooking oil in a large wok over medium low heat. Once oil is heated, add the rempah paste, fry and stir constantly, until rempah changes colour, from orange to reddish and aroma from raw to fragrant.
  5. Add the tamarind water, mix well. Then add the dried shrimp and gula melaka. Stir and cook till gula melaka is melted. The hae bee hiam remains quite moist.
  6. Cool the hae bee hiam completely before storing in containers, for up to 3 weeks in fridge or up to 2 months in freezer.

I divided the hae bee hiam into three portions, each tub about 200g for the hae bee hiam cookie recipe. This batch was a bit chunky and nice to snack on its own but I had to further grind them for the cookies. Couldn't resist stealing spoonfuls of it :p So addictive! Hubby commented that the tumeric taste was too strong but I thought it was ok, would probably reduce the quantity next batch.

I guess will be making more batches of hae bee hiam and cookies in the upcoming few weeks, will provide updates if any!


  1. I just made these and it is delicious. Only rolling out and cutting the dough is a big challenge for me.

  2. Hi Edith,
    Yes it's rather tedious to roll and cut the dough. If don't need flower pattern, can roll into logs then cut into discs, much easier.

  3. May I ask what is fine shrimp sauce?

  4. Hi Paul,
    Fine shrimp sauce is made from tiny shrimp which are boiled, peeled, salted, dried, and then ground to a fine, sturdy, and very aromatic but pungent paste. If you google it, should be able to see images of it, one common brand is Lee Kum Kee.