Do you like Bajan-style fish cakes? Do you like Trini-style salt fish accras? Do you like dried shrimp? If your response is check, check, check or yes, yes, yes, then you will be making these dried shrimp “cakes” this very weekend!
The other day I felt like eating some hot (temperature and heat), well-seasoned Bajan fish cakes but couldn’t because the process of soaking the salt fish to remove excess salt would take way too long and I had a craving for a savoury snack. Pronto! I opened the refrigerator and pulled one of the cooling drawers to see what I could rustle up quickly. I stared long and hard at the packet of dried shrimp at the back of the drawer, frowning, thinking… man this is the same kind of seafood preservation just like salt fish, has excellent umami flavour, they should make good salt fish-like cakes. The selling point for me is that I knew in mere 10 minutes, I could rehydrate the shrimp and remove some of the excess salt. And that is exactly what I set about doing.
I was already familiar with the flavour of dried shrimp in fried foods such as fritters and accras. Dried shrimp is a key ingredient in Brazil’s Acarajé (a black-eye peas and dried shrimp fritter with roots in African cuisine), which I made and shared with you a few years ago. So I already had an idea of the flavour profile, this time though, it was going to be different. The Acarajé batter is made up primarily of skinned black-eye peas with the dried shrimp playing a minor but important role. However, in this shrimp cake, the dried shrimp was going to be the main ingredient, and it worked! The dried shrimp stepped out on its own in this fritter-cake. For so long, dried shrimp has been accustomed to only being in the background of the dishes, in which it is used/added, not any more. Not when prepared like fritters or fritter-cakes.
Pepper sauce, sour and achar and cucumber salsa/sauce make for great accompaniments for these shrimp cakes but my favourite was the tamarind sauce (not to be confused with tamarind chutney) I made to go with the dried shrimp cakes. You’ve got to give these dried shrimp cakes/fritters a try.
Dried Shrimp Cakes/Fritters
5 ounces dried shrimp (a heaped cup)
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs (celery, thyme, parsley)
Minced hot pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking power
1 cup room temperature water
Oil for deep frying
Add the shrimp to a heat-proof bowl and pour enough boiling water to cover the shrimp. Let stand for 10 minutes then drain well and pat dry.
Tip the shrimp into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mince the shrimp. Add in the herbs and pepper and pulse a couple of times to mix.
Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Mix together the flour and baking powder then add to the shrimp mixture and toss well to mix.
Pour in the water and stir to make a thick batter. Cover and let rest for half an hour.
Add oil to a deep frying pan and place over medium heat until hot – oil is ready when the surface is shimmering (it should not be smoking).
Using a teaspoon, scoop heaped bits of the batter and add to the heated oil. Cook until nicely brown. Do not over crowd pan; cook in batches.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve hot, as is, or with your favourite condiment.
There is no need to add salt to the batter because the dried shrimp retains enough salt to taste.
The batter can be made a day or 2 ahead, however, be sure to bring it up to room temperature before cooking.
When frying and draining on paper towels, I always line a cooling/wire rack with the paper towels so that air circulates evenly around the food for cooling.
Using a larger spoon makes the cakes/fritters bigger.