Monthly Archives: April 2008


(photo by wm. christman)

(photo by wm. christman)

Every month I get together with a small set of friends to cook. In an obvious nod to Iron Chef, the hosts pick a theme and the rest of us split up the courses; usually starter, main, side, dessert.

For various and sundry reasons, I haven’t been attending but finally dug out from my commitments to contribute a starter. Up until Friday morning, I had not come up with something clever based on the theme of “minimalism” (5 ingredients max, with salt, pepper, oil, water, sugar being the only staples beyond the 5). Consulting with a cook friend of mine, I landed on a preparation of soft “ebi-shinjo”.

Ebi-shinjo is literally a “shrimp paste dumpling” and can be often found in traditional Japanese stewed/souped dishes. If you’re familar with kamaboko or hanpen, then you’re on the right track.

The prep is simple if slightly messy: ground shrimp, grated yamaimo (Japanese mountain potato), dashi (Japanese fish stock) and nira (Japanese chives). The yamaimo is used as a binder/softener to the shrimp. If you just used the shrimp, then you’d get a solid, slightly snappy mass like a whole cooked shrimp only in ground form. So the yamaimo softens that texture; the more you use, the softer it will become. The resulting “batter” (and it looks like a stiff, thick cake batter) is then steamed in a bain-marie. You can use just about any vessel but, in this case, small ramekins were used for a starter portion. The garnish is filtered dashi and a small fingerfull of chives. (A bit of caramelization was put on the whole shrimp with a kitchen torch.)

The taste and texture? Think steamed shrimp in soft cake form. The dashi and chives add a subtle, lightly seasoned taste.