Shrimp Chips: Ascent to Haute Snackery

August 1, 2010

I never grow tired shrimp chips aggressively clinging to my tongue. They are as satiating as carbonated burps in my nose. They are as naughty as an entire bag of Poprocks into my mouth.

Shrimp chips hit a chord of either alien intrigue or nostalgia. I started selling these flavor packed wonder chips at my my pop up grill last may.  The first people to purchase my 100% handmade shrimp chips were three Singaporean women at . The moment they spotted my chips, they chirped in excitement, "kupruk! kupruk! kupruk!" To them, the chips were a throw back to hot weather and home - to fresh chips made of real shrimp.

Aside from those three women, the rest of the SF food community was not quite ready for shrimp chips. After all, they were still embracing salted caramel. In fact, my chips inspired faces of distant confusion. In the beginning sales were incredibly low, but I was determined to change the way people ate. I was determined to change the way they saw food and culture. I was determined to claim respect and prestige for those foods that had previously been relegated to the '3 item combo'. Even now, my chips are nowhere near mainstream, but by and by they have grown in acceptance.  Tentative hands reach into my sample bag of chips only to find themselves victim of the most unexpected and pleasurable assault.  I thank all those fearless palettes, whose curiosity is greater than their discomfort. A coup/e weeks ago, we sold out at Outside.In.  I am hoping an audience grows.

Shrimp chips are crispy fried cassava root cakes. These chips can most commonly be found festooning the rim of a peking duck plate.  You can find them in most asian stores, ready fried or ready-to-fry (although these look more like poker chips).  They come in unearthly colors, such as misty rose, teal, and ghost white. They can be purchased in for very little money. You can also find $2 bags of baked Calbee shrimp chips laced with msg. Very good.

Yet these chips are not my chips. My 100% handmade shrimp chips are made of wild US rock shrimp chips and fresh farm eggs. They are salted with Phu Quoc fish sauce and flavored with hand pounded white peppercorns.

I mix these ingredients into a dough, which I steam in bamboo baskets for an hour. Then I hand slice these cakes into coins no thicker than a nickel. These chips then take a holiday under the dry San Francisco sun. Once they are dried, they are fried in hot peanut oil. It takes 4 seconds to watch these discs bloom into chips four times their previous size. They are as labor intensive as they are delightfully good.

Here is a peek into what the process entails:

I encourage you to try them out for yourself.  There is a full recipes (although not the one I use) at javaholic. However, they do take time and very good knife skills. 

If you're in the bay area and are not feeling up to the pounding, steaming drying frying, just come on by the stand to pick up a bag of these rare treats.  TI am sensing a comeback...

Oh yes!  And Shrimp chips + shaved chocolate = bacon caramel 2.0.

Updates on where we will be are posted in the sidebar of my blog and on my twitterfeed:


elra said...

You are so inspiring Kathy. I never thought of making shrimp chips myself. You are so special and talented young girl.

k. said...

Oh my goodness! I love shrimp chips but haven't eaten them in years because the ones I can buy in stores are firmly in the junk food category. Next time I'm in SF, I'll stop by - and I'm telling my SF friends right now!

Jonny said...

I wonder if these are the original inspiration behind the fantastically-processed, yet strangely alluring, British snack "Skips"? Skips stick to your tongue, suck up all the moisture in your mouth before melting with a slight fizz into a shrimpy (or prawn as we say) tang. Perhaps when Singapore was a key city in the British empire some enterprising young tommy conscript returned to Blighty from the far east with a brilliant idea and made his fortune flogging shellfish-derived snackery? I'm fabricating the whole tale, but it sounds plausible. These are awesome by the way. I'd like about 2lbs of them and some beers, please.

Hallie said...


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