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.

Cha Tom Recipe (Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes)

Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds frozen shrimp
  2. 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  3. 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  4. 1 teaspoon sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  6. 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  7. 1 small kaffir lime leaf (optional), very finely chopped
  8. 3 green onions (white part only)
  9. 3 tablespoons cilantro, + extra for garnish
  10. 1-1/3 teaspoons salt
  11. 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and sliced
  12. 1 yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
  13. 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.
  • Lightly oil the bowl of a food processor with a silicone brush. Combine the shrimp, the fried garlic, raw garlic, kaffir lime leaf, sugar, tapioca starch and 3 tablespoons of garlic-infused oil. Blend until a thick paste is formed. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and green onions and pulse 3-4 times. Transfer the shrimp paste into a bowl.
  • Checking the seasoning: In a small pan, heat about 1 teaspoon of canola oil. Add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the shrimp mixture. Cook for about 3 minutes. Taste the shrimp. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Making chả tôm:
  • Grease 2 large, flat spoons with oil (I used rice serving spoons). Form (2-½" diameter) round patties and place them on a tray, previously greased with oil. Plastic wrap and let the shrimp chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes (this step will make the cooking of the patties much easier) or until you're ready to fry.
  • Remove the patties from the freezer. Brush the patties with a little oil.