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PortWatch

February 6, 2013

Shrimp toasts offer 'fried' crunch without fat

Chinese New Year is the sort of new year celebration I love.

Because unlike the Western tradition of big blowout parties, Chinese New Year is a time to get together with family, to give thanks for what you have, to retire your grudges and to look forward to a year of peace and happiness. In that way, I think of it much as I do Thanksgiving.

It’s in the spirit of Chinese New Year (which this year starts on Sunday) that I’ve reconfigured one of my favorite dim sum dishes — shrimp toasts. Not familiar with what dim sum is? Think of it as Chinese tapas, or small plates of food. Traditionally, shrimp toasts are made of chopped or ground shrimp seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions and rice wine. This mixture then is mounded onto little toasts and deep-fried. The result is creamy on top, crispy on the bottom, and richly flavorful through and through.

Like everyone else on the planet, if it’s fried, I love it. In this case, though, I was hoping to get the crunch of frying without the fat.

I did a bunch of research and discovered that while the toast in this dish usually is made of plain old white bread, sometimes it’s swapped out for a slice of baguette. Eureka! Since baguettes become wonderfully crunchy when baked, I figured that that was how — without frying — I could conjure the crunchiness necessary for this recipe.

But then I worried that the shrimp mixture would dry out during baking. It needed protection, or some sort of coating. That’s when I reached for one of my favorite stealth ingredients — mayonnaise. It makes a terrific glaze. I spiked low-fat mayo with some sesame oil and sprinkled it with sesame seeds and, sure enough, it did the trick. The shrimp topping stayed creamy.

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