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
- 2/3 pound (320 g) medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined (net 9 oz / 270 g)
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Generous 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 green onion, finely chopped, white and green parts
- Canola oil, for deep-frying
- 2 handfuls sliced raw almonds
- Hot 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 towels.
- 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.
- Heat 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 is ready.
- 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.
- Crunchy shrimp balls (aka Chef’s special Balls) – a variation on this dim sum
- Sriracha chile sauce recipe
- Homemade chile garlic sauce recipe