Looking for something a little different for your holiday table? Combining two culinary cultures, Vietnam and the Gulf Coast, Chef Gisele Perez creates something exotic and delicious and adds a little Southern flair to your traditional holiday celebration. .
Over the years, sweet potatoes have become a staple in holiday meals. Whether candied or mashed, this root vegetable has played a major role alongside turkey or ham. This holiday Chef Perez takes this holiday veggie and creates a winning combination: Vietnamese Sweet Potato and Shrimp Cakes.
“The Gulf Coast was a perfect spot for Vietnamese refugees to settle in the aftermath of the fall of Saigon in 1975,” Chef Gisele explains. “Like Louisiana, Vietnam had been a French colony for many years. Many of those who came to the Gulf Coast from Vietnam were Roman Catholic, and of course, the countries shared a very similar terrain, consisting of river delta regions and coastal lowlands. The similarities in colonial masters and topography allowed for some similarities in food tastes, as well. The Vietnamese make up a large part of the shrimping and fishing community along the Gulf Coast and acceptance of their cuisine as part of New Orleans cuisine has become wide spread. Asian influence on Southern traditions can be felt from Po Boys to Vietnamese Tacos that consist of fried oysters and catfish with chili sauce.”
A food blogger and columnist, New Orleans native Gisele Perez, is an established chef in Los Angeles, California, with her company, Small Pleasures Catering. A graduate with honors from the renowned California Culinary Academy, Gisele has worked in some of the finest hotels, restaurants and catering companies in New York and San Francisco.
Makes 16-18 2-inch cakes
These shrimp cakes are served with a mixed vegetable and herb platter. The cakes are wrapped in a lettuce leaf along with a selection of the herbs and vegetables (like a sort of taco) and a drizzle of the fish sauce, to eat.
¾ cups sifted cake flour
½ cup of rice flour (* Rice flour is available at Whole Foods and other health food stores. If unavailable, all cake flour may be used, but you’ll have a slightly heavier batter.)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric or mild curry powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces ice cold water
6 ounces shrimp finely minced,
16 medium whole peeled shrimp with tail on
1 medium large sweet potato, about 9-10 ounces, finely julienned
½ teaspoon grated ginger
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Peanut oil for frying
¼ cup of Fish Sauce for dipping (Some fish sauce brands are stronger and saltier than others. It’s perfectly all right to dilute it with a little water, to suit your taste.)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, corn starch, baking powder, sugar and turmeric or curry powder. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the cold water, whisking gently until smooth. The batter should have the consistency of a thick cream. Refrigerate the batter while preparing the rest of the recipe.
2. Peel the sweet potato, and cut into thin strips using a mandoline or Japanese Benriner.
3. Add the sweet potato, scallions, ginger, half the garlic, and the minced shrimp to the batter.
4. In a heavy skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil until hot. Test the readiness of the oil by dropping in a tiny bit of the batter. When it quickly rises to the top, the oil is ready.
5. For each cake, spoon a heaping tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil. Working quickly, lightly press a whole shrimp into the center, then pour another tablespoon of the batter on top of the shrimp. Fry the cakes a couple at a time, for 1 to 2 minutes, then using 2 forks, carefully turn them over, and cook for another 2 minutes or so. When they are golden brown, transfer them to a paper towel lined plate to drain. The fried cakes may be held in a low oven while you finish frying the remainder of the cakes, but they should be served as quickly as possible.
6. Add the remaining garlic to the fish sauce, and serve the cakes with the fish sauce and vegetable platter.
Vegetable and Herb Platter
Several leaves of Bibb or Red Leaf Lettuce
Garlic Chives or Scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths
A small bunch each of cilantro, mint sprigs and Thai or purple basil (If you can’t find either of these regular Sweet Basil will do.)
1 small cucumber, peeled in alternating strips, halved lengthwise, and sliced thinly across
3-4 ounces fresh bean sprouts
Arrange attractively on a platter and add the shrimp cakes and enjoy.