Dried shrimp are shrimp that have been sun dried and shrunk to a thumbnail size. They are used primarily in Chinese cuisine. A unique umami taste is packed into each shrimp. A handful of shrimp are generally used for dishes. When cooked, the flavour is released as an ingredient.
In Asian cuisine
In Chinese cuisine, dried shrimp are used quite frequently for their sweet and unique flavour that is very different from fresh shrimp. They have the coveted umami flavour (or so called "fifth taste"). It is an ingredient in the Cantonese XO sauce. Dried shrimp are also used in Chinese (mostly Cantonese) soups and braised dishes. It is also featured in Cantonese cuisine, particularly in some dim sum dishes such as rolled and rice noodle roll and in zongzi.
Dried shrimp are also used in Korean cuisine, where they are soaked briefly to reconstitute them, and are then stir fried with seasonings--typically garlic, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, sugar, and hot peppers--and served as a side dish.
Soak in just boiled water for 15 minutes or more, before use to rehydrate. Chop first if required.
Buying dried shrimp
If you cannot obtain dried shrimp from your supermarket, try a Chinese, or ethnic food wholesaler such as Seewoo.
Will keep for ever (it seems), if refrigerated in an airtight container. This also keeps the powerful aroma at bay!
King prawns, prawns and shrimps
Information on fresh king prawns, prawns and shrimps can be found here.