Shrimp cakes. This is very much a home-cooking dish and popular in coastal cities in China where shrimp are plentiful.
The key to a good Chinese shrimp cake is maintaining the shrimp’s natural sweetness and crunchiness.
This is why I actually like to recommend using frozen shrimp––they are immediately frozen at their freshest state, and you can’t go wrong with them.
Just remember this cardinal rule––NEVER refreeze defrosted shrimp, or they’ll end up mushy!
Variations & Cooking Tips
With good quality shrimp in hand, you can make many variations of these shrimp cakes, so don’t limit yourself to just this recipe. I’ll leave you with a few key pointers, so you can be free to create your own shrimp cake masterpiece:
- In Chinese cooking, shrimp goes really well with ginger, scallions and/or cilantro, so adjust these aromatics based on your preferences.
- You do want to be able to taste the flavor of the shrimp itself, so avoid overloading it with too many heavy spices.
- To avoid the shrimp cakes falling apart during pan-frying, it’s important to use vegetables that do not produce too much liquid when cooked, like the carrots and water chestnuts in this recipe. If you would like to use a fairly “wet” vegetable like a leafy green, you must blanch them and thoroughly squeeze out any liquid before chopping and adding to the shrimp mixture.
- Most importantly, spend the time to whip the shrimp with the vegetable ingredients to create a sticky paste-like texture. This will ensure a crunchy, light texture in the finished shrimp cakes.
Hope this shrimp cake recipe has made it to you in time for your Chinese New Year celebrations!
Chinese Shrimp Cakes: Recipe Instructions
Thaw the shrimp and pat them dry with a paper towel. Transfer to a cutting board.
Lightly “smash” them with the side of a knife, and coarsely chop them.
Be careful not mince the shrimp into pieces that are too small.
Split a small carrot (about 50 g) in half crosswise and then lengthwise, and blanch the pieces in boiling water for about 2 minutes until lightly softened. Drain and finely dice the blanched carrot.
In a mixing bowl, combine the coarsely chopped shrimp, finely diced carrot, minced water chestnuts, ¼ cup cilantro, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, ½ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, 2 teaspoons oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ¼ teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and egg white.
Whip everything together for about 5 to 10 minutes in one direction, until the mixture is sticky and all ingredients are well combined.
You should be able to gather and press it into one big smooth ball with a rubber spatula (i.e., it should be very sticky and cohesive).
Now, heat a flat bottomed frying pan over medium high heat (nonstick or cast iron works best), until it starts to smoke lightly. Add 2 tablespoons oil and turn the heat down to medium.
Take a large spoonful of the shrimp mixture, and use another spoon to form a ball. You can also do this with oiled hands.
Drop it into the pan and quickly press it into a disc. (To avoid sticking, you can brush the spoons with oil beforehand.)
Pan-fry each side for about 3 minutes, until golden brown.
Add the last tablespoon of oil if needed during pan-frying. This recipe makes about 10 shrimp cakes.