Shrimp balls are ever popular in Asian countries. In Beijing, there are hundreds of street vendors that provide the most amazing delicacies, which at times are one hundred times better than eating in a fancy restaurant. These are served with a sticky, red spicy sauce, but the Nuoc Nam dipping sauce below, even though it is Vietnamese, lends itself even better as it provides the right balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Umami with attitude.
1 LB of raw shrimp
1 TBSP garlic/ginger paste
¼ cup of water chestnuts – chopped
¼ cup of bamboo shoots – chopped
¼ cup of walnuts – chopped
1 TBSP light soy sauce
4 scallions – chopped white part – but reserve the green parts as well for sauce
1 egg white lightly beaten
1 TBSP cornstarch
1 TSP sugar
Salt and fresh cracked white pepper
Peanut oil for frying
Pulse the shrimp in a food processor with the garlic/ginger, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, walnuts, scallions, soy and pepper. You want it chunky but not too creamy. Remove to a bowl. Beat the egg white, sugar and cornstarch and mix with the all the ingredients together. Refrigerate prior to forming the balls for about 2 hours to firm up. Form into 1” size balls. Heat about 4 TBSP oil and fry till golden – about 5-7 minutes ensuring you are not crowding the pan so they brown evenly throught.
NOUC NAM SAUCE
½ cup of water
¼ cup of turbinado sugar
3 TBSP lime juice
1 TBSP of rice wine vinegar, sake, or Mirin
1 garlic clove – passed through a garlic press
3 TBSP fish sauce
½ TSP of toasted sesame oil
1 Thai red chili – seeded and minced
Green parts of scallion
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Mix the water, sugar, lime juice and rice wine vinegar to dissolve the sugar. Make adjustments to ensure that you have the necessary sweet and sour flavorings.
In a mortar and pestle combine the chili, garlic and a pinch of salt and mash to a smooth paste. Add to other ingredients with the fish sauce. Whisk together, add the sesame oil and whisk well. Taste again to adjust seasonings.