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Monday, January 14, 2008

Banh Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp and Yam Fritters)

I love, love, love yams. Or is it a sweet potato? Well, apparently it's the sweet potato I really love, but Americans use the words yam and sweet potato interchangeably. :P

Banh Tom 1

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 2

Banh Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp and Yam Fritters) 

You'll need:
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

For dipping:  
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.

Banh Tom 3

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. :(

Banh Tom 4

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."

Banh Tom 5

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).

Banh Tom 6

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.

Banh Tom 7


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.


  1. Girl, you eat some interesting stuff. The only thing I like in all the recent posts are the crabs. Yummy

  2. i like looking at the pictures and reading the recipes. so can you please post it? i think i want to try to make this one because i saw this somewhere and wasnt sure what it was and now that i know what it is, then i might try it for myself. thanks....

  3. Alex,
    It's not "interesting," it's good stuff. I bet I'm eating better than you.

    Sure thing. :)

  4. I always thought that yams and sweet potatoes were different things - yams are starchier I think and kind of pale in colour.
    Either way, those fries look good!!!!

  5. I'm hooked on sweet potato fries - my favorite restaurant has added them as an option and I can't get enough. Your recipe just takes the fries to a higher level. There is no question that I would love this dish. Thanks for the great post!

  6. That's why I love food blogging, you learn a lot about foreign cuisines, I am German. Thanks for sharing this interesting recipe
    Ulrike from

  7. I just love everything about this. (Even the frying, which I think is ok once in a while!) You're right that in the U.S. what are often called yams are really sweet potatoes. Some stores call them "sweet yams." They are becoming one of my favorite ingredients, and I'm crazy about that Vietnamese dipping sauce (also called fish sauce, which used to confuse me when I first started liking it!) Great post!

  8. I love banh tom! My mom juliennes her sweet potatoes and I think her batter is a smidge thicker so everything sticks together - probably a little more like the northern version (though she's from the south).

  9. purty and delicious. i love this dish. order it everytime i go to brodards.

  10. man i might have to make a trip to california. so much good food. maybe i should forgo my trip to seattle for my friends wedding and just go to california to meet up with my other friends...probably a cheaper trip...maybe the food will be worth it...such temptations because of the restaurants in california...

  11. i love sweet potato fries! this would be good with the shrimp heads still on too! mmmm. fried shrimp and shrimp heads!

  12. W&S,
    Yams and sweet potatoes are different things. Americans are just weird and call them both yams. :)

    Thanks for the compliment!

    You're welcome!

    You like fish sauce. Hehe. :)

    That's how Hanoi and Vien Dong restaurants make their banh tom.

    I do too.

    You wouldn't be the first to make a trip out here just for the food.

    Good idea!

  13. Ooh another excuse to use the deep fryer!

  14. Hello! I've been an 'anonymous' reader of your page for some time now, and was excited to see it pop up when I did a search on banh tom. A good friend of mine introduced it to me earlier this week and I told him it's kind of similar to a Filipino version called, ukoy. So there's another small similarity between Filipino/Vietnamese cuisine. =) Cheers!

  15. Hi Min,
    Ukoy. Great. Another food for me to try. Isn't it cool how there's so many similarities with different cuisines?

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Rin,
    Do! It's a fairly easy recipe. I use the terms interchangeably. :P

    Cringe Schrapnel,
    Haha. :)


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