After getting the low down on Vietnamese young green rice (cốm), what can you do with the little flakes. One of the easiest ways to savor the rice is to use it like breadcrumbs (think panko) and use it to coat deep-fried shrimp. Look for the rice at Vietnamese markets abroad or bring some back with you when traveling to Vietnam.
Crispy Shrimp Coated with Green Rice
Tôm Chiên Cốm
Serves 4 as a snack
1/2 pound shell-on medium or large shrimp
31/2 tablespoons cornstarch or 5 tablespoon tapioca starch
½ cup green rice flakes (com dep, see photo of package)
Canola oil, for deep frying
Sriracha or Cholimex* hot chili sauce, for dipping
1. Peel the shrimp, leaving the shell on the last segment and the tail so that the shrimp is easy to manipulate during coating.
2. Devein the shrimp. For a nice presentation, butterfly the shrimp by cutting the back nearly all the way through (but not) and then pressing the shrimp open. You can opt to do a Japanese approach to straighten the shrimp out by making 3 or 4 shallow cuts in the inner curve of the shrimp body near the fatter end; press down on the shrimp and it will more or less lay straight, allowing you to dip and roll each one easily later. Or, just leave the shrimp as is.
3. To refresh the shrimp, toss them in a liberal amount of salt and then immediately rinse them with lots of cold water. Drain well and dry well with paper towel.
4. In a small bowl, combine the egg and cornstarch (or tapioca starch), beating with a fork to blend well. It will seem hard to accomplish but keep at it and eventually, everything will combine into a silky finish. Put half of the green rice flakes on plate and set aside. Nearby, have a plate and paper towel handy for draining the finished shrimp.
5. Use a saucepan, wok, or deep skillet to fry in. Pour in the oil to a depth of 11/2 and heat over medium-high heat to 325 to 350ºF on a deep-fry thermometer. If you don't have a deep-fry thermometer, stick a dry bamboo chopstick into the oil; if after a few seconds, bubbles to the surface, the oil is ready.
6. Dip each shrimp into the egg batter, holding it suspended above the batter to allow excess batter to drip off. Immediately roll (or turn) the shrimp around in the flakes to coat. The flakes don't need to cover every bit of shrimp; they will puff up a bit during frying. Slide the shrimp into oil and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, flipping midway to ensure even coating. The rice flakes will brown ever so lightly and that's okay. They should keep most of their green coloring.
Fry as many shrimp as can comfortably fit into your cooking vessel. Transfer finished shrimp to the paper towel to cool and drain. Lightly sprinkle with salt and serve with the chile sauce as a dip.
Cholimex is an excellent chile sauce made in Vietnam. Terrific flavor. Buy a 6-pack when you're in Vietnam and take it home in your suitcase! Bring bubble wrap so you can take Saigon food souvenirs back with you.
To temper the Sriracha chile sauce, make this little sauce for dipping the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce (Rooster/Huy Fong brand), 2 teaspoons water, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and serve.