Blessings in disguise
People squeamish about eating whole shrimp don't have to miss out - these perfectly pretty dishes are masters of deception
Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
Years ago I had a friend who wouldn't eat whole shrimp, or several other types of shellfish, because, she said, they reminded her of bugs. There are many more significant reasons for the demise of our friendship (I'm really not that shallow!) and I've since met other people who are just as squeamish. These recipes are suitable for serving to people who want their shrimp to not look like shrimp.
Sugarcane shrimp (pictured)
Sugarcane, cut into short lengths, is sold by some vegetable vendors in wet markets. If possible, buy it peeled of its tough, fibrous bark, which can be difficult to remove.
600 grams peeled fresh shrimp
200 grams minced pork
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
20ml fish sauce, or to taste
5-10 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
20 grams egg white, whisked until frothy
2 spring onions, cut into thin rounds
Oil, for frying
Sugarcane, cut into pieces about 6-8cm long
Fresh herbs such as mint, coriander and Thai basil
Lettuce leaves, for wrapping
For the dipping sauce:
45ml Vietnamese fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 red bird's-eye chilli, cut into thin rounds
About 20ml fresh lime juice
About 5 grams granulated sugar
About 20ml bottled still water
De-vein the shrimp then cut them into small pieces. Put the shrimp and pork in the bowl of a food processor and add the garlic, fish sauce, sugar and salt. Process until the shrimp pieces are finely chopped. Add the egg white and process for about a minute, or until you see protein strands developing in the mixture. Add the spring onion pieces and process until they're finely minced. Pan-fry a little of the paste and taste it to see if the seasonings are right; correct if needed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover with cling-film and refrigerate for at least an hour.
While the shrimp paste mixture is chilling, combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Cut the sugarcane lengths into pieces that are slightly less than 1cm in diameter (the exact shape doesn't matter). Shape some of the paste into a thickness of about 1cm around the lower two-thirds of each piece of sugarcane, leaving a "handle" of about 2-3cm long.
Pour oil in a wok to a depth of about 6cm and heat it to 180 degrees Celsius. Fry the shrimp paste-wrapped sugarcane in batches, turning them over in the hot oil until done (about three minutes). Drain them on paper towels then place on a serving platter. Arrange the lettuce leaves and herbs on a plate and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.
Shrimp and corn fritters with mango-lime salsa
250 grams fresh shrimp meat
3 ears of fresh corn, husks and silks removed
30 grams unsalted butter
2 medium-size garlic cloves, minced
3 large shallots, minced
1-2 red bird's-eye chillies
2 kaffir lime leaves
3 large eggs, at room temperature
105 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
1½ tsp granulated sugar
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooking oil, as needed
For the salsa:
1 medium-sized ripe mango
1 red bird's-eye chilli
1 large shallot, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced
The finely grated zest of one lime
30ml fresh lime juice, or to taste
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Make the salsa. Lay the mango on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut along one side of the flat seed. Turn the mango over and cut on the other side of the seed. Use a large, shallow spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin. Cut the flesh into 5mm pieces. Slit the chilli in half lengthwise then scrape out and discard the seeds. Finely mince the chilli. Mix the mango with the chilli, shallot, lime zest and juice, and the coriander leaves.
De-vein the shrimp, then cut them into 5mm pieces. Blanch the corn for about a minute in a pot of lightly salted boiling water. Drain the corn, then carefully slice the kernels from the cob. Remove and discard the seeds from the chillies, then finely mince them. Stack the kaffir lime leaves on top of each other, roll them tightly, then use a very sharp knife to slice them as thinly as possible.
Melt the butter in a skillet set over a low-medium flame then add the garlic and shallot and cook until soft. Add the corn and chilli and cook until the kernels are crisp and tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the shrimp and kaffir lime leaf, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a clean, dry mixing bowl. Whisk the yolks with the milk, then stir this into the flour and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the shrimp/corn mixture and stir. Use a clean, dry whisk to whip the egg whites until frothy, then add a quarter of a teaspoon of salt and the sugar. Whip until the whites form soft peaks. Add one-third of the egg whites into the shrimp/corn mixture and stir to combine. Add the remaining whites in two additions, folding them in gently to maintain as much volume as possible.
Pour cooking oil into a skillet to a depth of about 1.5cm. Heat it over a medium flame until it's 180 degrees. Spoon the mixture into the hot oil, making it into flat fritters that are about 5cm in diameter. Fry the fritters in batches until medium brown, turning them over once. Drain them on paper towels before placing them on a platter and serving with the salsa.