For all the times you’ve thought, wow I could totally go for [insert name of your favorite restaurant dish here] only to realize that reservations are impossible to get, this new series is for you. Cook Like A Restaurant is dedicated to giving you the recipes from the places you love along with the tricks to make it taste as close to the restaurant’s version as possible.
First up, is Chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s and co-author, along with Tienlon Ho, of the cookbook, Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food. At Mister Jiu’s, you’d be hard pressed any day to find any diners who aren’t happily enjoying the shrimp toast. Most frequently described as a must order, the appetizer is a blend of richness and satisfying crunch, and inspired by the Hong Kong dim sum dish. Allegedly, shrimp toast first originated in Guangzhou, and then made its way to the U.S..
Chef Jew says, “Shrimp toast came about at a time when people were starting to do entertaining at home. It was a popular appetizer that really exemplified Chinese-American cuisine, using white bread and a very versatile filling that usually would be utilized for dumplings.” Here are his tips for recreating the dish perfectly at home.
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Make It Golden Brown
When Chef Jew was developing the Mister Jiu version of the shrimp toast recipe, he researched recipes by Chinese cooking legends such as Irene Kuo and Florence Lim. He decided that his version would be a little different. Unlike traditional deep-fried shrimp toasts, the one at Mister Jiu’s would be shallow fried, so that it would be shatteringly crunchy, without being greasy.
“When I teach the dish to our cooks, I tell them that we want a golden brown color, much like the shallow fry you get with a grilled cheese.” To do that, you need to carefully monitor the amount of fat and heat. Also, don’t constantly flip the toast. “Shoot for getting one whole side nice and dark,” Jew says, and then you can flip to the other side.
Be A Little Frightened
The other common mistake chefs make is pulling the toast too early, when it hasn’t fully reached its golden brown potential. Typically, you can really take it to the edge, says Chef Jew. “If you’re a little scared that it is getting too dark, it’s close to getting ready to turn over.”
Get Good Fats
Don’t substitute. As Chef Jew simply says, “Putting shrimp in pork fat it’s a yummy thing.” But if you must, he says that clarified butter, or rendered bacon fat works as well.
Don’t Make It Too Smooth
Part of the appeal of this dish comes from the play in textures. You get the crispiness of the toast paired with some in the filling and the sesame seed topping. “Texturally, the jicama or water chestnut gives it that crunch,” he explains. When combining the shrimp mix in the food processor, be sure to pulse it in very short bursts so that the emulsion doesn’t break.
“You don’t want it super smooth,” he explains. “Don’t just let the machine run. The parts will heat up, and the shrimp will then start to lose more texture, and you’ll keep losing more of it.”
Use Old Bread
Much like with making French toast, mature bread makes for better shrimp toast. “You need the toast to be stable, so you can spread the filling on top,” he explains. Usually in the restaurant, Chef Jew and his team will bake off loaves and let them linger in the fridge for two days (wrapped in plastic).
“It’s better to have bread that is a little stale,” he says. If you don’t have any, you can put your bread in the fridge and it will be perfect for shrimp toast the next day.
Read on for the recipe.
Mister Jiu’s Prawn Toast
Makes 4 servings
For the Lemon Aioli
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon, plus 2 tsp fresh lemon juice ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup / 120ml grapeseed oil
For the Prawn Mousse
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 8 oz / 225g peeled and cleaned large shrimp
- 2 Tbsp egg white (whisked before measuring)
- ½ tsp toasted sesame oil ¼ tsp light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp finely diced uncooked bacon
- 2 Tbsp finely diced jicama
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced (crosswise) green onions
- 2 tsp peeled and minced ginger
- ¼ cup / 30g raw white sesame seeds
- Four 1-inch-thick slices of milk bread
- 2 Tbsp rendered pork or duck fat
To make the aioli:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt.
- While whisking, slowly stream in the grapeseed oil a little bit a time until thick and emulsified.
- Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To make the mousse:
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the garlic and boil until just knife-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the garlic, finely chop, and place in a medium bowl.
- Butterfly half of the shrimp, then cut into medium dice. Add to the garlic.
- In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse the remaining shrimp until coarsely chopped.
- With the motor running, pour in the egg white, sesame oil, and soy sauce and process into a smooth paste, stopping and craping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Don’t pulse further or the emulsion will break.
- Add the cornstarch and process briefly until just combined.
To Make The Prawn Toast
- Add the shrimp paste to the chopped shrimp. Then add the bacon, jicama, green onions, and ginger and stir to combine.
- Put the sesame seeds in a small dish. Using a round cutter, cut each slice of bread into a 2½-inch circle (or just trim into a square) with no crust. Spread the prawn mousse onto the bread slices in a thick, even layer to the edges. Dip each toast, mousse-side down, in the sesame seeds to coat well.
- In a medium nonstick frying pan over medium heat, warm the rendered fat until shimmering. Place the toasts seed-side down in the pan and cook until the sesame seeds are dark golden brown and the mousse is firm and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Flip the toasts, slide them around the pan a little so that the bread soaks up some of the fat, and cook until the bottom of the bread is golden brown and toasted, about 3 minutes more.
- Transfer the toasts to a serving plate.
- Garnish the toasts with a dollop of lemon aioli. Serve immediately.
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If you want more of these recipes, be sure to get a copy of the cookbook.
Grapeseed oil is key to making the mayo for this dish. Our Editorial Operations Manager Jess Basser Sanders is a fan of this one.
This recipe calls for Chinese light soy sauce, which you shouldn’t confuse with low sodium soy sauce. The “light” refers to the color, a reddish brown, and this sauce is usually made from the first press of the fermented soy beans.
If you need sesame oil, this is a good choice. It’s nutty and rich.
For a good toast, you’l want a non-stick frying pan that can be used over medium heat. That sounds like a job for the Our Place Always pan.
Making a smooth shrimp mousse will require a good food processor. This one is top-rated and affordable.
After all your hard work, you’ll want to show the prawn toast off on a nice plate like this one from East Fork.