In Austin, when the air heats up to over 90 degrees on a consistent basis the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or two over a hot stove or in and around an oven. This recipe offers minimal stove and grilling time and makes good leftovers to enjoy right out of the fridge all week (if you double the recipe that is). Summer is here folks, let’s keep our cool when we can!
2 oz. pork fat or bacon, chopped
1 tbls. garlic
1 tbls. shallot
2 tsp cane sugar or coconut sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
canola or coconut oil for rubbing on hands
12 red-leaf or butter (Boston) lettuce leaves
½ cup fresh cilantro
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup fresh Thai basil
Bean sprouts or sunflower sprouts
Nouc Cham Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
Prepare a charcoal grill. In a food processor, process garlic and shallot to finely mince. Transfer to a bowl. Add bacon or pork fat to the processor and process to form a purée. Add the shrimp and continue processing to form a paste. Return the garlic and shallot to the processor and add the sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to mix.
Either oil the inside of a rice steamer, using the steamer basket provided, or oil the lattice bottom of a bamboo steamer. Oil your hands, scoop up 2 tbls of the shrimp paste and roll it into a cigar shape. Place on the oiled steamer. Repeat with remaining shrimp paste, placing them, without touching, in the steamer. Add water to bottom of container and bring to a rolling boil. Place shrimp in steamer basket or rice cooker and let steam till paste is almost cooked, 3-5 minutes.
Remove the steamer from over the water. Place the shrimp on the grill rack over the hot fire and grill, turning often, until they are nicely charred with grill marks, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter.
To serve, pour the dipping sauce into a saucer. Place the lettuce leaves on a platter. Arrange the lettuce, cilantro, mint, basil and sprouts on the platter. To eat, take a lettuce leaf and a few leaves from each herb in the lettuce leaf, add a shrimp paste ball (it can be hot, cold or at room temperature) and lay it in the middle of the herbs. Roll into a cylinder, dip into the sauce and enjoy.
1 small garlic clove
1 fresh Serrano chile
¼ cup fresh lime juice
5 tbls. fish sauce
2 tbls. sugar
6 tbls. water
In a mortar or food processor chop the garlic and chile until puréed. Makes about 1 cup.