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Street-Food Inspired Appetizers – Part 1

As an exchange student in Thailand, one of my earliest lessons in Thai culture was about snacks. During every break, my classmates would bring out bags of chips, candies, cookies, and chocolates, throw them in the middle of the circle, and try a bite of everything. The snacking didn’t stop for class, either. I would get a nudge under the table from a friend holding a piece of candy, which I had to unwrap and pop into my mouth without the teacher noticing.

Shrimp in crispy breadcrumbs, Goong Choop Pang Tod กุ้งชุบแป้งทอด

Deep fried shrimp in crispy breadcrumbs (Click to enlarge)

Thailand’s street food culture exists to serve Thailand’s love of snacking. While you can order a full meal from a street vendor, it’s just as easy to walk from cart to cart munching on satay, then a piece of fruit, then a bag of sticky rice…

So it’s no surprise that Thai snacks can inspire delicious, show-stopping appetizers. I’ve tried my hand at Crispy Panko Fried Shrimp with Thai Chili Sauce and Curry Puffs. These finger-foods will delight your guests as they try something completely new.

Crispy Fried Shrimp with Thai Chili Sauce

Crispy fried shrimp with Thai chili sauce, this one is easy. You only need:

  • 1 lb of shrimp
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Cups of Panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • Thai Chili Sauce

Shell the shrimp, leaving their tails attached. Boil them for 30 seconds – they do not need to be cooked all the way through, just mostly firm to the touch.

Beat the egg and pour over the shrimp, then set aside for 15 mins. Mix up the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper to taste. Place each shrimp individually into the pile of breadcrumbs and cover it completely. Let the bread-covered shrimp dry.

Bangkok street vendor selling 'Shrimp Pop'

Bangkok street vendor selling 'Shrimp Pop' (Click to enlarge)

Heat 1-2 inches of soy or peanut oil in a wok to between 345°F and 375°F. You can use a thermometer, or just notice if your shrimps are browning too quickly, and turn the oil down. If they are getting soggy and losing breading, heat the oil more. Woks are great for deep-frying because their wide, sloping edges catch the splatters of oil.

Put the shrimp into the oil 2 or 3 at a time, and move them around while they sizzle. The shrimp is cooked, so you only need to crisp the batter. Fish them out with a wire net, tongs, or long chopsticks. Let the shrimp cool down a bit before you eat them.

These are best with a bowl of Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.

Thai Curry Puffs

While your oil is hot, you can deep-fry a batch of Thai Curry Puffs. Similar to Indian samosas, these pastries are sold from street vendors or 7-11s and filled with curried meats, sweet beans, or curried potatoes. They’re not complicated, but it’s nice to have help in the kitchen to fill and fold the curry puffs.

Homemade Crispy Thai Curry Puffs

Homemade Crispy Thai Curry Puffs

Mix together:

  • 2 Cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ Cups oil
  • ¼ Cups water

Until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Push the crumbs into a ball, cover with 1 Tbl oil, and put into an airtight bag. Let the dough rest for 30 mins.

For the filling, heat in a wok:

  • 2 Tbl oil
  • ½ lb minced pork (or chicken, beef, or another meat)
  • 1 Cup diced onion

And cook for 6-8 minutes, until the onions are clear and the meat is cooked. Stir in:

  • 1 Cup diced, boiled potatoes (if you want vegetarian puffs, make 2 C potatoes and omit the meat. Still delicious)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt (go light on the salt, at first – I found ½ tsp was enough)
  • 1 ¼ Tbl light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbl curry powder

Stir-fry 2 minutes more. Mash the potatoes up a little in the wok.

To make the puffs, roll the dough into a ball about 1 ½ inches across, then press it flat. Place a Tbl of filling in the middle,then fold and crimp shut with your fingers or a fork. Let them dry out a bit, then deep-fry as in the shrimp recipe above – you can even use the same oil.

I used the Thai Curry Puffs recipe from Supatra Johnson’s book Crying Tiger: Thai Recipes from the Heart. Packed with recipes for both old favorites and unfamiliar dishes, Crying Tiger also has an extensive description of Thai ingredients, and personal insights into Thailand’s northeastern Isan region.

In the second part of Thai appetizers coming soon, I’ll cover Shrimp on Lemongrass Skewers and Lettuce-leaf wrapped Miang Kam. If you make any of these appetizers or have suggestions for other Thai appetizer ideas I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave me a comment using the form at the bottom of this page.

Read Thai street food inspired appetizers part 2.

Kaitlyn MooreAbout the Author, Kaitlyn Moore:

Kaitlyn is originally from North Carolina but moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, so that she could eat more noodles and avoid snow. She’s been abroad for over a year, with occasional stops in other parts of South and South East Asia.

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