Shito is an extremely popular Ghanaian condiment that adds so much flavour to any dish it is paired with. It is a savoury, umami, spicy condiment made with aromatics, tomato paste, dried smoked seafood like herring and crayfish, and dried spices to taste. Shito is enjoyed with a number of rice dishes like Jollof Rice, Waakye or other dishes like kenkey, banku, and snacks like boiled eggs, fried plantain, fried yam, the list goes on and on. All the ingredients in shito are simmered for several hours to remove the moisture and meld all these ingredients into a very dark thick condiment. Simmering and removing the moisture from the condiment and then topping the finished product with oil in glass jars also helps to extend its shelf life. After you open your jar and begin using your shito, I recommend storing it in the fridge.
Dried and smoked shrimp, crayfish and herring are staples in West African cooking and can easily be found in West African or Caribbean grocery stores. They can also be substituted with dried and not smoked versions, which are often available at Asian grocery stores.
Blend dried smoked shrimp or crayfish. Place your shrimp or crayfish into a blender or food processor and blend until a powder forms. Pulse several times until all the dried shrimp/crayfish bits are pulverized and the largest pieces in your blended mixture are very small shrimp/crayfish flakes (no bigger than ¼ of the size of a pencil eraser). Set aside.
Blend dried smoked herring. Leave the fish skin (you may remove the bones and head if you want to, but it is not necessary). Blend your dried fish, pulsing several times until it pulverized, and an oily, crumbly powder texture. Your blended herring will be harder to blend than your dry shrimp/crayfish so make sure you pulse as many times as necessary to really break down the fish.
Give your blender a quick rinse, and then blend onions. Everything will all eventually end up in the same pot.
Blend the rest of your aromatics (garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet) together until very smooth. You can add a bit of oil to help blend, the mixture should still be as thick as possible. Don’t add water, as the goal is to remove as much water from the shito to ensure it is shelf stable.
In a large pot add your oil and heat over medium-high.
Add tomato paste to the pot. Fry tomato paste until it is fully mixed into oil, stirring constantly.
After about 4 minutes, add your blended onion. Mix for about 10 minutes until the onions start to brown and dry out in the oil.
Add your ginger, garlic and scotch bonnet blended mixture to the oil. Stir periodically until it is all combined. Simmer on low, stirring every 5 minutes for about an hour and a half until the mixture darkens and reduces in volume. At this stage, it may bubble depending on your pot so make sure your lid is nearby and it is partly covered to avoid splatter.
Add dried herring and shrimp/crayfish powders. Stir to combine.
Simmer for an additional hour, stirring every 10 minutes so it does not burn. Your mixture will turn very dark after an hour or so of simmering.
Add all seasonings to the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
At this point your shito should be very dark in colour with lots of oil on top, and well-seasoned. If your shito is very light in colour, cook on low stirring often until it has darkened. Make sure you keep stirring so it does not burn, but cooks slowly.
Once your shito is done, allow it to cool slightly and store in a glass jar. There should be a lot of oil in your shito, this is to preserve it. If after making your shito there is not a lot of oil settled on top of your finished product, add up to a cup of oil into your shito in the pot, simmer for 30 minutes before jarring.
Place your slightly cooled shito in a clean mason jar, make sure there is oil at the top, and let your shito cool to room temperature before closing the jars. The jars can be stored at room temperature but once you open the jar and use any of the shito, store in the fridge. If this is your first time making shito, I suggest just storing all your jars in the fridge. Whenever you are using your shito it is very important to always use a clean dry uncontaminated spoon when scooping out this tasty condiment.