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wrapping up california

Recipe: shrimp toast

I’m done processing my photos from Yosemite and I think the latter half of any shooting trip always suffers. By the end of a multi-day shoot, I’m less inclined to sit around trying to get the perfect shot and by the end of my photo processing (which proceeds chronologically) my threshold for photos to even bother processing goes way down.

foothill poppies and lupine

yosemite falls (upper and lower)

You can see selected photos from the trip on the photo blog: waterfalls, flowering trees, Yosemite valley shots, foothill wildflowers, and wildflowers within Yosemite. After Yosemite, we spent three days getting stuffed to the hilt on amazing Chinese food. I can’t keep doing that. Next time I see Grandma, we’ll have to make a deal that we only eat out once a day and nosh on fresh fruits and vegetables the rest of the time. After the third meal out, I feel as if I’m going to blow up from all the sodium intake. Of course, the menus never fail to entertain.

you can always find chinglish

Grandma and I are tight and we’ve been that way ever since she came to live with my family when I was but a wee bern. She is this tiny, unassuming Chinese woman who looks 20 years younger than she is (good genes – her four daughters all look fabulously young and beautiful), has a clever head on her shoulders, possesses more wisdom than anyone I know, and treats people with kindness and respect. EVERYONE likes my grandma. She is teh cool. Even the jerkiest of jerks likes her. She ROCKS.

Fiona marveled at the history my grandma must have lived through – absolutely! Her life story is riveting at times, heartbreaking at others, but she is resilient and a survivor who is constantly adapting to her surroundings, to her situations. Grandma exudes a peaceful tranquility. I never met my maternal grandfather, barely remember my paternal grandfather (he was a general – not the cuddly type of grandparent), and was kind of scared of my paternal grandmother. While hiking through Yosemite with Jeremy, I reflected on that and said, “It doesn’t matter – for the three grandparents that never really figured into my life, my grandma makes up for that a hundred times over.”

peonies for grandma

So while I’m talking about my Chinese grandma, it’s a good time to crank out another Chinese recipe, don’t you think? I have only ever had shrimp toast in restaurants. They were usually more toast than shrimp and greasy beyond belief. A few years ago, my mom began to mention that she makes shrimp toast for parties and it’s a huge hit (no surprise there – she’s a great cook). I had a shrimp-cooking frenzy last month and this was one of those bouts of “something shrimpy to make”. Why not shrimp toast?

peeled shrimp and an egg to be whirred

chunks of butter

I didn’t get my mom’s recipe before she went away on travel, so I pulled up Ming Tsai’s recipe on my iphone while I was prowling the aisles of the grocery store. If I can’t trust Ming for a recipe, I may as well turn it in, you know… I searched several recipes in books and online, but settled on this one because it called for butter (which I always have on hand) instead of lard (something I am irrationally afraid of).

mix ginger, green onions, and water chestnuts into shrimp slurry

organic potato bread, because i hate wonder bread

Because my local Whole Foods was cleaned out of wild-caught, shell-on shrimp and because I was sick of driving to Boulder for shrimp, I just sucked it up and bought the farm-raised, pre-shelled, de-veined tiger shrimp from southeast Asia. I know this single purchase is going to doom the planet, but there you have it. I was actually delighted that it took all of… two minutes to pull the tails off and chuck them into the Cuisinart instead of the 30 minutes of shelling and de-veining the little buggers. Oh Convenience, you are such a dirty temptress. The shrimp were pulsed with eggs and butter (I omitted truffle oil) and then mixed with minced vegetables (I added ginger – we love it) to make the shrimp mousse.

spreading a generous layer of shrimp mousse on the bread

a sprinkle of black sesame seeds for contrast and accent

I couldn’t bring myself to purchase Wonder Bread because I won’t even let my dog eat it. Some organic potato bread worked just fine since I could use the remainder for sandwiches. I sliced the crusts off per the recipe instructions and I think that sealed Jeremy’s fate – because he loves ANY sandwich with the crusts cut off (i.e. tea sandwiches). Slap a little mousse on the bread, sprinkle some sesame seeds, deep fry those babies and you have yourself some spanking shrimp toast. I think my mom has a more-toasted-less-fried version which I’ll have to try. This one is a little too fried for my liking, but Jeremy gobbled them up and declared his love for shrimp toast (a food he has always avoided at the restaurants). They really are good – especially hot.

fried, crispy, and delicious

crunchy outside, shrimpy inside

Shrimp Toast
[print recipe]
slightly modified from Ming Tsai’s shrimp toast recipe

1/2 lb. (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, de-veined
1 egg
1.5 oz. (40g) unsalted butter, cold
dash sesame oil
salt to taste
2-3 green onions, trimmed and minced
1/3 cup (45g) water chestnuts, minced
1-2 tbsps ginger, minced
sesame seeds
loaf of bread, sliced thin with crusts removed (plain white bread or something soft and plain)
oil for frying

Place the shrimp, egg, sesame oil, and salt in a food processor and pulse until mostly smooth (a few lumps are good). Add the butter and pulse until blended, but small chunks of butter are still present. Empty the shrimp mousse into a bowl and mix with the green onions, water chestnuts, and ginger. Cut the bread slices into triangles. Spread a layer of mousse (about 1/4 inch thick) on each slice of bread. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Heat a few inches of oil in a medium pan to 350°F. Fry the shrimp toasts mousse-side down for a minute or more until golden then flip to fry the other side for another minute. Remove from oil and drain on a cooling rack or paper towels. Serve hot. Makes about 2 dozen toasts.

52 nibbles at “wrapping up california”

  1. Candice says:

    mike tea with peral sounds delicious. spell check is over-rated anyway.

  2. Bridget says:

    Honestly, I can’t believe you process all of the photos in one day. Lately, I’ve been doing 5 photos per day. Yeah, my friends and family get really impatient to see trip photos…and it’s definitely always in the back of my mind that it needs to be done. I guess I need to get more disciplined about it.

    I’ve actually never had shrimp toast, but based on the ingredients you list, I can’t imagine not liking it.

  3. cindy says:

    yum…the shrimp toasts look fantastic.

    your grandmother sounds like a gem, how awesome. love the photos as always, the one of yosemite falls is breathtaking. wonderful!

  4. dawn says:

    oh my gosh shrimp toast. do you have any idea how much I love to indulge in shrimp toast? we have to go all the way into Boston for shrimp toast (well, if we want it done right).
    my great-grandmother was a tiny little woman that lived (in her own house) till 101. we have those good danish genes running in my family which I hope I get to enjoy in longevity.
    this was a delightful read…

  5. Pearl says:

    oh my gosh. so if the whole professor thing doesn’t work out for some reason, you can always just write your own cookbooks and open up your own restaurant.

  6. Nate says:

    Thanks for the recipe for shrimp toast! I never order it in restaurants and hardly ever touch it if I see it at a banquet.

    Can you bake it instead of frying?

  7. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary says:

    “Oh Convenience, you are such a dirty temptress”. That line just had me laughing out loud at work, so naturally my co-workers want to know what’s so funny, so I show them and now they all want shrimp toast!

  8. charlane says:

    I’ve always avoided it too but this sounds so great. I love your photographs – I want to go to Yosemite so much.

  9. Irene says:

    I so feel the same about my grandma. Somehow, in my family, it is the women who have the most complex stories. Love the shrimp toasts and the yellow poppies! We are going to be in Yosemite in about a month and I can’t wait!

  10. ravenouscouple says:

    These look delicious and so easy to follow! We’ll have to try it! We’re also going to Yosemite in July for the first time. Can’t wait too!

  11. Jenny says:


  12. Caitlin says:

    I was thinking – okay, sounds good, sounds good… And then you said that they were deep fried. Now I *have* to try them. Gorgeous photos, I wish I could visit Yosemite sometime.

  13. foodhoe says:

    wow! I love reading about your grandmother and your pictures are amazing, truly so! deep fried toast sounds delicious too.

  14. Lizzie says:

    Jen: the “shrimp part” of your recipe is JUST what I’ve been looking for!! If I make something like these toasts, I usually just fry them in a little butter (fairly high heat, but not enough to let the butter burn). Then I finish them under the broiler, so easy. We particularly like cream cheese mixed with well-drained anchovies and finely chopped spinach.

  15. Kathy says:

    I enjoyed reading about your Grandmother. I love when Grandparents are serene and at peace with their lives (instead of grouchy old coots).
    The shrimp toasts look awesome!

  16. Fiona says:

    What a nice picture for your grandmother! I love peonies nearly as much as I love interesting old women. My Great (aka “Crazy”) Aunt Georgiana was one such. I miss her.

    I’ve actually never ordered shrimp toast in a restaurant, because even though I love things like shumai somehow the idea of shrimp on toast kind of weirded me out. But now that I have a general idea of what’s in it, I might get some just to see what the idea is. Can’t quite bring myself to fry my own…though any dish with shrimp and chunks of butter is pretty hard to resist…

  17. dishinanddishes says:

    WOW these look amazing! If I hear one more person say “at my local Wholefoods Store”! We don’t have one! In a city our size, we SHOULD! I wonder how these would bake in the oven? I can’t eat fried foods in abundance and these would make me want to!

  18. Lily says:

    *drooling over here*

    These look tasty and I will try it this weekend to impress the mommy. Can you also toast these in the oven???

  19. Chocolate and Toast says:

    I am also irrationally afraid of lard. Although I love bacon, and other pork products. Go figure. And I have never heard of shrimp toast, how much of a rube am I? Now I must try it, the buttered and fried version, with potato bread because I also love that and I also hate Wonder bread.

  20. Asianmommy says:

    This shrimp toast looks fun to make. I love convenience, too, but the pre-shelled, de-veined shrimp never tastes quite the same.
    & Wonder bread tastes like air to me.

  21. Mrs Ergül says:

    Those spelling mistakes always crack me up! Item 87 of the drinks menu. Are they trying to say ‘Fresh ORANGE juice’ or ‘Fresh ORGANIC juice’? And Item 88’s 波霸奶茶? 波霸 literally means busty! So, it translates into ‘Busty Milk Tea’. Do they mean there is a lot of milk or the pearls actually resemble it?? Beats me!

    These toasts look too good! Does the shrimp mousse have a tendency to fall off the bread when frying?

    I don’t think I will have any problems liking your grandmother! I sure feel that she is someone who is easy to get along with!!

  22. Julia says:

    Your photos are amazing. And the recipe sounds wonderful, perfect for entertaining buffet-style

  23. Tartelette says:

    Finally the shrimp toasts! My doctor would love you if you fed me these because she knows my cholesterol watch goes to zero when faced with fried food!
    Love the orangic juice bit!!
    Your grandma should hook up with my grandpa (he reminded on my bday that he was going to be 99 in August…as if I could forget!!). I bet they’d have a lot to talk about (would need Helena to translate though!!). I believe that the harder you’ve had it in life, the stonger it makes and the longer you live.

  24. Eat. Travel. Eat! says:

    This is not the only time where I have seen the word milk change to the word mike in a Chinese restaurant’s menu! I saw that exact misspelling in a restaurant in my area a few months ago.

    Shrimp toast sounds ultra delicious. At first I wasn’t expecting shrimp mousse to be made but it looks great with the shrimp mousse :). I like how you evenly browned the toast and the shrimp mixture.

  25. Collette says:

    I miss both my grandmothers very much. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your grandmother with me. She sounds delightful.

  26. Debbie says:

    Oh my, I’ve only had shrimp toast in Chinese restaurants so I’m sure you have an idea of what they were like. Yours look fabulous! So fresh….I’m glad you have such a great grandma. I felt the same about mine. She had a huge influence on me and I loved her dearly.

  27. Kristin says:

    Beautiful photos, we’ve got to get to Yosemite before the kids won’t travel with us anymore. Is it irrational to fear lard? Well, I’m there too.

  28. Angela says:

    I always love hearing you talk about your grandma. She sounds like an awesome lady full of life and just a blast to hang around with. Like yourself, my po-po (maternal grandma) also raised me ever since I was a baby and I will always hold her very dear to my heart.

  29. Sandy says:

    I haven’t made shrimp toast in years, but I should because it’s so easy. I use a recipe from one of Martin Yan’s cookbooks, but I don’t remember using butter (or lard!) in the shrimp mousse. I have coated the shrimp toasts with panko before frying for extra crunchiness.

  30. Holly Heller says:

    This is a great great recipe – I have to make appetizers for game night lovin’ vegetarians soon. This shall be gold.

  31. amy says:


  32. Madam Chow says:

    Oh, this looks so good. I’ve been looking for a recipe like this. And I snorted my tea up my nose when I read your comment about “chinglish!”

  33. Y says:

    Mmmm.. mike tea…

    You’ve just reminded me of my grandmother who visited us from Malaysia a couple of weeks ago. She’s an inspiration to me too. And she doesn’t seem to have aged for the last twenty years!

  34. sweetbird says:

    Anything that can be described as “crunchy outside, shrimpy inside” is worth eating, in my opinion.

  35. susan says:

    HI Jen! You made these look so simple to prepare – I look forward to trying it. Reminds me of wonton fillings – I make a similar batch, minus the butter, and with black mushrooms for shrimp wontons – simple enough, but tons of chopping and dicing! The suggestion of anchovies and spinach sound most curiously delicious too! Btw, are shrimp toasts even authentic to the chinese?

    Its not surprising your family is so wonderful, with you as their protege. I love how you share their history and pass on their legacy with these colorful snippets and precious recipes. Truly, as another reader suggested, a cookbook – with yours and your mom’s, dad’s, grandma’s, mil’s, (& other’s) beautiful recipes – along with your amazing step by step photos – is surely to be a hit! I like reading cookbooks but I LOVE reading your recipes because your photos (referred by some as food porn) give me great visual reference – and clarity into the process. Often times an end-result photo just isn’t enough…anyway, sorry for rambling. I love it and thanks as always!

  36. Manggy says:

    Too fried! Hah! You are too funny. Well now, if I share in this feast, then that should take the explosion burden out of you. Looooove shrimp.
    I got a little choked up when you talked about your grandma. She really does sound awesome. I’m glad you got to see her and reassure her of that. :)

  37. Abby says:

    Not the fried shrimp I’m used to down here … HA. But so much better since I’m not a huge fan of the beige seafood thing.

    And as for your photos: I know they ARE real, but it’s so gorgeous where you live that I can hardly believe they are, actually real. So gorgeous.

  38. Aran says:

    such beautiful photos jen!

  39. Mollie says:

    I love that Jeremy loves tea sandwiches! These look amazing. My hubs family makes these things called “shrimpies” with canned shrimp (gack!) and that jarred old english cheese on english muffins that give me the heebie jeebies… I think this might make a better alternative!

    Pretty peonies… i love them, and mine are about to bloom!

  40. Melissa says:

    Convenience is a temptress, isn’t it? I try very hard, but once in a while…

    Love the toasts. They do look delicious and not at all too greasy. The potato bread probably worked beautifully. The only “white” bread I buy typically is from the Japanese bakery near my house. That stuff is astoundingly good and blissfully all natural.

    Glad you had a great time, as always. I’m sure it would be lovely to have a grandmother like that – reminds me of my best friend’s grandma, a little Thai Buddhist lady, who just exudes good energy.

  41. Kevin says:

    I have never had shrimp toast but it looks and sounds so good!

  42. orinskitchen says:

    Your photos are amazing! Can we bake them plz?

  43. White On Rice Couple says:

    Applause for your Grandma! She’s amazing, thanks for sharing stories about her and about her beautiful cooking !
    I’m thrilled you had a delicious blast in CA! And you captured Yosemite so perfectly, I don’t know of anyone else who can do it better!!
    You just made my evening. I can’t wait to crank up my Survivor songs, put a chocolate cake in the oven and get going on these f*&^%*(* amazing shrimp toasts!!!

    “How can I convince you….what you say is real…..” .

  44. jenyu says:

    Candice – hee hee!

    Bridget – It took me two days to do 500 photos. You learn to get pretty quick when you shoot a lot :)

    Cindy – thanks!

    Dawn – awww, I hope you have your grandma’s longevity too. How sweet.

    Pearl – ah ha ha! I could not be a professor. I’d go insane. But thanks!

    Nate – I imagine you MUST be able to bake it somehow? Or maybe panfry in a little oil (shrimp side down) and then bake them to firm up the bread?

    Lisa – ;)

    Charlane – Yosemite is quite the treat. It’s a very beautiful and special place.

    Irene – have fun! It should be gorgeous.

    Ravenouscouple – I hope you like it. The valley is a bit of a zoo, but… there is a lot to see there if you’ve never been before. I personally prefer the backcountry, but the whole place is amazing.

    Jenny – thanks!

    Caitlin – Get yourself out there, chickie. You’d love it. (and yeah – that whole frying thing – I know it’s bad for me… but I love it!)

    Foodhoe – thank you :)

    Lizzie – ah, I didn’t think of the broiler. Good tip! Thanks!

    Kathy – Thanks :) My grandma really rocks and I totally agree with you.

    Fiona – I think you’d be fascinated to hear some of my grandmother’s stories. Truly amazing. Well – give shrimp toast a try. It’s pretty good stuff, although the frying is a bit much for me. Maybe a baked version?

    Dishinanddishes – I have to settle for Whole Foods because we don’t have Trader Joes :( I think you could try 1) pan frying the shrimp side and then baking the toasts, or just broiling/baking them??

    Lily – I’m thinking yes, but I’ve never tried baking them before. Someone suggested broiling. That might work?

    Chocolate and Toast – Not a rube at all, you just haven’t hung around Americanized Chinese restaurants much ;)

    Asianmommy – you’re right, the wild-caught are much better tasting to me too.

    Mrs. E – I didn’t even notice that one until you mentioned it! I guess Mike Tea was too distracting? :) The shrimp mousse actually stays on the bread very well while frying. I didn’t have a single one “un-dock”!

    Julia – thanks!

    Tartelette – ha ha, that’s why I try not to make too many fried foods. Wow, 99? Good genes, my dear. I hope you have them :)

    ETE – that’s hilarious! Thanks – the toast is pretty straightforward to make!

    Collette – you’re welcome. *hugs*

    Debbie – grandmas are awesome. Really glad that you had such a special one too.

    Kristin – thanks!

    Angela – oh, your po-po sounds a lot like mine :) That’s awesome.

    Sandy – mmm, panko. I have yet to make anything with panko, but it sounds fantastic.

    Holly – are these flexitarians (rather than vegetarians)? I am always astounded when people say they are vegetarian, but they eat chicken and/or fish. That’s not a vegetarian ;)

    Amy – :)

    Madam Chow – chinglish is great fun when you least expect it!

    Y – hee hee. Wow, your grandma must be one of those eternally youthful looking Asian women. How awesome is that?! :) xxoo

    Sweetbird – me too!

    Susan – I have no idea, but it seems a lot of Chinese cookbooks have recipes for them. You’re very very sweet. Thanks for your support. It’s always good to know that others enjoy the site and find it useful :)

    Mark – I guess I really like shrimp too. Except that I think it’s that I love ALL seafood. Crazy about it really. Detriment to the Earth’s oceans am I :) I get a little choked up when I talk about my grandma too, so you’re not alone :)

    Abby – beige seafood? You are so funny. Glad you like the scenery – it’s one of my favorite things to shoot (and see!)

    Aran – thank you!

    Mollie – jealous of your flowers, chica. Try the shrimp toast on them, see what they say :)

    Melissa – I know what bread you’re talking about. I’ve never tried it, but it always looks so pretty! My grandma is Buddhist too, and little :) Grandmas rock.

    Kevin – thanks, hon.

    Orinskitchen – I’m guessing you could, but I’ve never tried. Maybe broil to set the tops (of the shrimp mousse)?

    WoRC – you’re too much, D! What was Todd’s reaction to the 80s music blasting in that house? Did the dogs howl?? :) xxoo

  45. shrimp toast « Chef It Yourself says:

    […] doing them justice, but they are to die for. Again, I adapted them from a recipe I found over at Use Real Butter; you need to check Jen’s blog out, she’s quite […]

  46. JillMonkey says:

    Loved your description of your grandmother because my chinese grandmother is exactly the same. She moved in with us from Singapore when we were babies. She’s the master chef of our community and (after our family) the thing she loves most in life is feeding people.

    She makes something quite similar to your shrimp toasts excepts she spreads the paste on very firm tofu and fries it.

  47. kathy says:

    Yummy! My husband likes shrimp and I know he’ll love this. Thanks for this easy yet delicious recipe. :-)

  48. Jasmine says:

    Hi Jen,
    Would you mind asking your mom for her “more-toasted-less-fried version”? I was just wondering whether she toasts the bread first, then spread the filling on and only pan-fry that side? Thanks!

  49. jenyu says:

    Jasmine – I finally got around to asking my mom about it. She toasts the bread first then adds the filling and fries it. She says the bread absorbs less oil that way. She also said one of her sisters bakes her shrimp toasts completely and that it doesn’t taste as good ;)

  50. Stir Fry says:

    Thank you for the lovely photos and sharing your stories about your grandmother. They are both very heartwarming.

    Thank you for sharing your shrimp toast recipe! It is our family’s favorite meal with a green salad. I agree 100% with the Wonder Bread and use a bread maker recipe for dark white bread. I realized I’m missing the water chestnuts (gasp) and ginger (double gasp)., so thank you for that. Have been adding oyster flavored sauce and Sriracha hot sauce to zest it up.

    I slather the paste on half slices rather than quarters and fry in olive oil and serve with spicy mayonnaise. Best meal on the planet

  51. July93 says:

    Hi! I have been a long time reader and fan of your website… Came across this post when i was directed from your CNY post. Just wanted to share with you a tip on de-vening prawns, one that I learn from my mum and grandma. Between each section of the prawn and its shell, your can insert a toothpick into its flesh and remove toothpick in a upwards motion (not too roughly, but you dont need to be too gentle and careful either) – this will remove the prawn’s veins and so you don’t have to spend so much time butterflying the prawns in order to remove its veins. Otherwise, it is also helpful when you are cooking the prawn with its shell on. Be warned though, sometimes the vein will break. Either try to remove it from another section between the shell or well, what is one prawn with its veins in?

  52. Tanya Williams says:

    Love, love, love the recipes on the site. I grew up in Brooklyn New York and now live in Baltimore Maryland. It’s so hard to find authentic recipes that remind me of home. Your Asian recipes are always a hit with my family, friends, and coworkers. So far I’ve tried the shrimp toast, fried rice, and spring roll recipes. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to create tastes that I only get when I go home.

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