I’ve been meaning to make these little deep-fried morsels
since I first had them months ago at Elite, a fabulous dim sum restaurant in
Monterey Park, California. Fried shrimp balls are usually coated in strips of
spring roll skin but these caught my eye because of the almonds. It took the
kitchen forever to make them and once they appeared, the almond balls were so
humongous and hot that my sister, husband and I nearly burnt our tongues. The
dim sum was worth the injury.
The rich nuttiness of the almonds pair wonderfully with the
delicate shrimp paste. It’s a relatively new take on the fried shrimp balls at
dim sum restaurant.
Yesterday I decided to make a batch as a pre-dinner snack.
It came together easily with ingredients from the supermarket. My only mistake
was not using a deep-fry thermometer and I nearly burnt half the batch. They
still tasted good but were not camera ready.
After cooling the oil, I tried again and got what I wanted —
a golden brown toastiness to the nuts. The frying takes about 60 seconds and
the shrimp paste does get cooked in
that short amount of time. That’s the beauty of deep-frying. You can fry a
little longer at a lower heat, if you want to hedge your bets. If you’re afraid
of deep-frying, these are fast and non-dramatic. Little oil gets absorbed.
I refrigerated half of the shrimp paste overnight and fried
up more for lunch. The almond shrimp
balls went well with a bowl of udon noodle soup.
Could you call these a dumpling? I’m not sure. They’re
little and ball-shaped, made with a paste but there’s no dough or wrapper, unless you count the almonds. Regardless, the
shrimp balls are a nifty, easy dim sum that will wow a crowd.
Almond Shrimp Balls
Yield: 14 to 16
balls, to serve 4 or 5
pound (320 g) medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined (net 9 oz / 270 g)
teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
teaspoon sesame oil
teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
green onion, finely chopped, white and green parts
oil, for deep-frying
handfuls sliced raw almonds
sauce, such as Sriracha or chile garlic sauce
- Put the shrimp in a colander and toss with a liberal amount of
salt. Rinse under lots of cold water, drain well, then blot dry with paper
- Coarsely chop the shrimp, then put in a bowl. Add a very generous 1/8
teaspoon of salt, then the pepper, sugar, cornstarch, oyster sauce, sesame oil,
and rice wine. Put into to a small or regular-size food processor and grind into
a stiff and relatively coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the green
onion. Cover and set aside, or refrigerate overnight. Use at room temperature or
cold. You should have a generous 1 cup.
1 1/2 inches (7.5 cm) oil in a wok, small saucepan, or deep skillet to about 340°F. If you don’t
have a deep-fry thermometer, stick a dry bamboo chopstick into the oil; if it takes about 1
second for bubbles to rise to the surface and encircle the chopstick, the oil
- While the oil heats up, use two teaspoons to shape the paste into
14 to 16 balls, rolling each one in the sliced almonds as you shape it; gently
press the almonds into place. In batches, fry the shrimp balls in the oil for
about 1 minute. They should sink to the bottom then eventually float up to the
surface. Adjust the heat to maintain the oil temperature. Drain and cool on
paper towel for a few minutes before eating with hot sauce.