chinese shrimp toast

Oh shrimp toast, you perfect specimen of asian appetizers.  You prince of perfect party pass-arounds.  Crunchy and fried on the outside, but slightly gooey in the middle, you beckon to me on every chinese menu.  But I only rarely indulge, so why not try my hand at them?  Now, this isn’t one of those “Tastes-like-the-real-thing Amazingly Baked-Not-Fried Shrimp Toast” recipes.  This is a “Quarter-cup of Oil, but Blot on Paper Towels if You’re Trying to Lose Weight” recipe.

You’ll need: (for 24 shrimp toasts)
3/4 lb shrimp
2 tbs ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
1/8 cup water chesnuts
1 egg
1/4 cup cilantro (I used 1 tbs dried)
12 slices white bread
1 handful scallions
1 handful scallions, to garnish
2 tbs sesame seeds, to garnish

Sesame-Chile Dipping Sauce:
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs sweet chile sauce
1 tbs hoisin sauce

Start by cutting the crust off of your bread and then halving each slice (I like triangles, but you can default to your preferred shape).  Set these aside.  In a blender or food processor, add your ginger and garlic and pulse ~5 times.  Then add the rest of your ingredients- egg, sesame oil, shrimp, scallions, water chestnuts, cilantro.  Pulse ~10 times, until the whole mixture has come together but is still reminiscent of shrimp.

In a wok or frying pan (I used a small frying pan to reduce the amount of oil I was using), heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil over medium-low heat.  When the oil is ready for frying (drop a small piece of bread in the oil and if it is golden in 30 seconds, then you’re golden), place shrimp toasts shrimp side down and fry for ~3 minutes until brown.  Then pop them over to the bread side and fry for about 1 minute.

Scoop out your toasts and drain on paper towels over a cooling rack before munching.  Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions, and serve with your sesame chile dipping sauce.

xiang shou!

the hungry texans



sesame ginger udon noodles with vietnamese caramel pork belly

Hello!  or should I say, Konnichiwa… or wait- Chào bạn!  Okay, so I admittedly mixed cultures with this dinner.  But it’s delicious and I’m busy surviving a hurricane, people, so forgive me.  Now that the apologies are over, let me count the ways that I love these Japanese noodles and Vietnamese caramel sauce:

1. Pork belly is cheap.  I found three bellies for $3, enough for dinner for two.

2. You don’t have to cook it for days in order to get tender, flavorful results.  Sure, you could brine it, braise it, slow cook it, and eat it 36 hours later.  But this recipe proves that you don’t need to.  It takes less than an hour from start to finish.

3. In Vietnam, this caramel pork belly is called Thit Kho and it’s usually served with a soft boiled egg.  You could take the traditional route, or you could stack these delectable treats on a crusty French baguette a la Bahn Mi.  But for this easy dinner, the flavored udon noodles were just perfect.

you’ll need: (2 servings)

1 lb pork belly

2 tbs fish sauce

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves finely chopped garlic


for the caramel:

5 tbs water

5 tbs sugar

for the noodles:

1 package udon noodles

3 tbs sesame oil

1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1/2 tbs freshly grated ginger

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil and saute the chopped onion and garlic.  While that’s getting soft, slice the pork belly into one inch bites (I half-froze the pork belly, which made this much easier).

When the onions and garlic are happy, throw in the pork belly.  Let it brown on each side over medium-high heat (should be about 10 minutes).

While the pork belly is browning, add the water and sugar to a small sauce pan.  Keep an eye on your caramel and stir it with a wooden spoon regularly over medium low heat.  When the sugar melts and the mixture turns from sugar-water to caramel, you want to be there for it.

Once your pork belly is browned, add the fish sauce and then the caramel sauce.  You’ll notice that the pork belly is already starting to look more like scrumptious pork and less like fatty belly.  Let the whole thing simmer for another 30 minutes.

Onto the noodles!  These are super easy and you can use whatever type of noodles you prefer.  I’m not a huge fan of vermacilli, so i try to choose a thick wheat or egg noodle when I’m shopping.  Cook the noodles per instructions on the box, then toss them with the sesame oil, sesame seeds and grated ginger.

Serve the pork belly over the noodles, top with scallions, and enjoy!