Last Sunday was my husband’s birthday. I was tired from teaching nine hours worth of cooking classes on Friday and Saturday but was determined to fete him with some of his favorite foods. I headed to the market while he worked at home. Rory requested rack of lamb so I gilded the lily with various snacks, including fried shrimp. We stopped ordering them at restaurants because they’re often frozen/thawed things or they come coated in heavy batter. Frying at home guarantees fresh deliciousness.
I purchased half a pound of shrimp and fried a few up, instagraming and facebooking a photo before we devoured them with chilled sake. One person dubbed the shrimp as “shrimp torpedoes.” A couple of people asked for the batter recipe.
Since my homemade banh mi rolls resemble torpedo rolls in shape and to get the batter recipe I had to make another batch – there was the perfect excuse to fry the shrimp and try it out in a sandwich. It was incredibly good. Synergistic as a good sandwich ought to be.
Fried shrimp and mayonnaise in bread is a winning combination already, but adding the banh mi elements knocked the sandwich out of the ballpark. I used the sriracha aioli from The Banh Mi Handbook, Maggi Seasoning sauce, daikon and carrot pickle, chiles, cucumber and cilantro. You can substitute shredded iceberg and Romaine for the refreshing cucumber crunch.
Did I eat the tails? Heck yes, but you can snip yours. I keep the tails to have something to hold onto for coating the shrimp. Plus, the tails lend the shrimp their torpedo look, as does butterflying the shrimp.
This batter holds its crispness for about an hour due to the combination of rice flour, cornstarch and all-purpose flour. A little leavening lightens the batter load.
I used rice bran oil to fry with because it is particularly light and has a high smoking point, but canola or another neutral oil works. If you don’t want to make sandwiches, serve the fried shrimp with sriracha mayonnaise mixed with a touch of ketchup, black pepper and squirts of lime. Chinese mustard and lime are good too. As you can tell, I’ve eaten many fried shrimp torpedoes in the past few days. Now it’s your turn.
Fried Shrimp Torpedo Banh Mi
Yield: Enough for 4 sandwiches
- 16 medium-large shrimp (26 to 30 count)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (1 oz / 30 g) regular Thai rice flour, such as Erawan brand
- 6 tablespoons (2 oz / 60 g) all-purpose flour
- Rice bran, canola, or other oil for deep-frying
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup ice water
- Banh mi accoutrements: Bread, mayonnaise, Maggi Seasoning sauce, daikon and carrot pickles, chile, cucumber and cilantro
- Peel the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Devein each one, cutting deeply. To butterfly the shrimp, turn it onto the cut side and gently press to force flat and open. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the salt, cornstarch, rice flour, and all-purpose flour. Dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture. Set aside.
- Heat about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of oil in a wok, saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat to a moderate temperature of 350F (180C).
- Meanwhile, add the baking soda and baking powder to the flour mixture. Stir in the ice water by the tablespoon to create a thick, silky batter resembling pancake batter. You may need about 1/2 cup, depending on how much flour was leftover after coating the shrimp. Add a little bit extra starch, rice flour and all-purpose if you want to hedge your bets. Regardless, the batter will thickens and form little gas bubbles as it rests.
- When the oil is ready, coat the shrimp in the batter and fry for several minutes until golden, puffed up and crisp. Turn once or twice. Drain on paper towel then use for banh mi sandwiches.