The bright orange color means sweet potatoes are chock-full of beta carotene and vitamin C. While I love sweet potato fries, I didn't encounter banh tom (Vietnamese shrimp and yam fritters) until I dined at Brodard Restaurant - Garden Grove. I liked the restaurant's thick-cut sweet potatoes and the "nests" that were formed with a shrimp on top.
So while banh tom Ho Tay (West Lake shrimp fritters) originated in Hanoi, this version is quite different from the Northern Vietnamese presentation, which tended to have thinner-cut fries and a lot more batter. Adding a bit of turmeric into the batter helps with the color, and aids liver and digestive health as well. Serve with a platter of herbs to wrap the fritters and it's pretty healthy. Well, except for the frying. In which case, you can easily bake the fritters instead.
Banh Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp and Yam Fritters)
1 or 2 sweet potatoes, thick-cut into fries
1/2 cup all-purpose flour or rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 cup cold water
1 or 2 tsps turmeric
A dozen or so shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Oil for frying
Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce)
Vietnamese often eat shrimp with the shells and all, if you don't, then obviously shell them and set aside. This recipe comes together pretty quickly so turn your burner to medium-high and let the oil start heating.
Peel and then cut the yams or sweet potatoes into thick strips like French fries. In a bowl, add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or rice flour, 1/2 cup corn starch, and 1 cup cold water along with a tsp or so of turmeric. Then add the yams and mix thoroughly.
Set up your cooking station with the bowl of yams and shrimp at the ready by the wok or frying pan.
I thought I'd be clever and use my giant wok frying spoon but the yams kept getting stuck. Sigh. And I made the "nests" look so pretty too. :(
So instead, using one hand, I just dropped the fries in a little pile on top of each other in the oil, and placed a shrimp on top. Do this quickly before the batter has a chance to cook so the fries will stick together and form a little "nest."
Or you can arrange the fries and shrimp onto a large spoon, immerse that into the oil, and slide them off the spoon. This photo is of the haphazard "nests."
Serve with a platter of herbs such as mint, tia to (Vietnamese perilla), cilantro, and lettuce, and dipping saucers of Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce).
To eat, tear off a section of lettuce, add some herbs, and place a few fries and a shrimp on top. Wrap into a roll and dip into the nuoc mam cham.
I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers. If you'd like to participate, see who's hosting this week. WHB is hosted this week by Rinku of Cooking in Westchester.