We’re quickly approaching a favorite time of year: farmers market season. But more and more, eating local means grabbing vegetables and herbs sprouting just outside our own kitchen windows. Jill shares with us her adventure raising prawns, which makes me wonder, what are other people growing in their backyards and is it enough to build a fresh appetizer for a crowd? - Maggie
Shrimp toast is a classic Chinese appetizer where the shrimp is often chopped into a paste and spread on top of the bread; but this version with the tails looks much prettier!
Although the shrimp used in this deep-fried dish didn’t come from my own backyard, I wish they had — and recently I even took steps to grow my own plump prawns! Last summer I ordered more than 1,000 little baby Malaysian Freshwater Prawns I had hoped to grow into hearty fare for our dinner table.
I figured, we eat a lot of shrimp in this household, why not chow on fresh food from our own backyard. I’m able to grow vegetables in my aquaponics grow beds using just a tenth of the water as conventional farming and the fish or prawns live in tanks below the surface. The used water is pumped up and converted by beneficial bacteria into nutrients to feed the plants and clean water is re-circulated back to the fish.
Sadly, out of 1,100 prawns, just one remains: a lonely female who bears eggs about once a month but has no mate. Prawns are very territorial and cannibalistic. More than half were killed by human error (my error, sadly); and each time one molted their protective shell, it was eaten by the others.
Growing prawns didn’t quite pan out as I had hoped. Regardless, these shrimp toast are a hit. To make this prettier, tails-on version, start by peeling the shrimp but leaving the tails intact.
Butterfly all your shrimp by slicing down the back until it’s almost cut through. You will want them to lay flat on the bread.
In a bowl, beat one egg with a scant half teaspoon of salt. Add the shrimp and mix gently until all the shrimp is covered in egg.
Trim the crust off the bread, and cut in half.
Beat two eggs and dip in your bread, just lightly kissing the surface. You don’t want the bread to be too soggy! With the skin side facing up, press the shrimp firmly on the egg-soaked surface.
Deep fry in a small saucepan with an inch of canola or vegetable oil. The oil must be hot; otherwise the bread will soak up the oil like a sponge. Test with a piece of bread, it should bubble up immediately.
Carefully deep fry with shrimp side up. Slightly submerge the toast by holding it down beneath the oil’s surface with a pair of tongs. This will help the shrimp adhere to the bread. When the bottom is a nice golden brown, flip over and brown the top. Work in small batches, three or four at a time. It cooks really fast, so have a plate with paper towel ready to blot the excess oil from the toasts.
Chop up and sprinkle some fresh herbs over toast; here, I have cilantro and chives grown from seed this winter. Amazing what you can grow with regular daylight white fluorescent lights.
Makes approximately 20-30 pieces, depending on number of shrimp.
- 1 pound of raw extra large shrimp, deveined
- scant 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 egg, plus 2 eggs for dipping bread
- 1 loaf, white sandwich bread (I used Wonder sandwich thins)
- Canola or vegetable oil for frying
- Fresh cilantro and chives for sprinkling
- Peel shrimp leaving on the tails, rinse in cold water and squeeze out excess liquid. Butterfly the shrimp and set aside.
- In a bowl, beat one egg with a half teaspoon of salt. Add the shrimp and toss gently, making sure all is coated with egg.
- Trim crust off bread, and cut into halves (count how how many shrimps you have and do the math).
- Dip only one surface of the bread, skimming very lightly so there is only a thin layer of egg. Gently press shrimp on top of the bread (egg side so it sticks), making sure that the skin side of shrimp is on top. Repeat until they are all assembled.
- In a small sauce pan, add about an inch of canola or vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Test that the oil is hot by adding a piece of bread. It should bubble immediately. Fry, working in small batches, shrimp side up, pressing down slightly with your tongs so they cook and stick together. Flip over when the bottoms are golden brown and brown the other side. Pull them out and place on paper towel lined plate to blot extra oil.
- Chop fresh chives and cilantro and sprinkle over top. The Shrimp Toast are good plain, or with your favorite dipping sauce.
All photos styled and shot by Jill Chen.
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