Cha Tom Recipe (Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes)

Chả tôm are lightly seasoned shrimp cakes. No tasteless fillers here; a sprinkling of tapioca starch, coriander, green onions, garlic and kaffir lime are the only ingredients added to supplement the flavor and texture of the shrimp. It is true Vietnamese comfort food.
These shrimp cakes make wonderful appetizers, but can also be served as an entrée. Just pair them with vermicelli (called bún chả tôm) and you'll have yourself a very traditional Vietnamese meal. You could also make mini sandwiches for a change of pace. I served them recently as appetizers for a dinner party with a plum dipping sauce. They will be delicious no matter how you choose to prepare them!

Cha Tom Recipe (Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes)

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds frozen shrimp
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small kaffir lime leaf (optional), very finely chopped
  • 3 green onions (white part only)
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, + extra for garnish
  • 1-1/3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 quart canola oil (or any neutral oil)

Directions
  • Making garlic-infused oil: Heat the canola oil in a skillet. Cut 4 garlic cloves in half, lengthwise. Fry the garlic in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Reserve the oil. Drain the garlic on paper towels. Set aside.

For the shrimp:
  • Finely minced the rest of the garlic. Set aside.
  • Remove and discard the heads of the shrimp if they're still attached. Carefully shell and de-vein the black part of the shrimp using a sharp hook-like paring knife. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat dry using a paper towel. There should be as little water as possible. This step is tedious but essential for good results. Coarsely chop the shrimp.