8.08.2015

The Case of the Haunted Tastebuds

Have you ever been at a restaurant, loved something a lot, and asked for the recipe? Sure you have. I used to ask a lot but, with the Web, it is a lot easier to find recipes without asking.

Sometimes, chefs share the recipe cheerfully and on the spot, some require the request in writing, and others flatly refuse.

Several years ago, I was in Palo Alto, CA, for work and managed to schedule a quick lunch between meetings with my friend, Susan, and her partner Jeff, who live there. I have known Susan since the 5th grade. They are both really into good food.

Susan and Jeff arranged to meet me at Tamarine, and I started my meal with a shrimp-topped coconut cake.

The whole meal was fantastic, but those little coconut-laced pillows stand out in my memory. Naturally, I asked for the recipe. To my surprise, the server said he knew it - and proceeded to tell my it was just rice flour and coconut milk.

He lied.

But memories of those little cakes topped with shrimp haunted me. I would just have to invent something up that would satisfy the haunting memories.

After a few failures, I ended up with a pretty wonderful result. They may not be exactly what I had at the restaurant, but they have chased away the demon memories, and I am able to rest. Theyre good; and they're really easy, too.

And can we talk about an amazing mayonnaise?? We enjoyed this topping on tuna burgers the next day, but can see it working for pork, chicken and other seafood, too.

~ David

Sautéed Shrimp on Savory Coconut-Rice Pillows

Spicy Sesame-Ginger Mayonnaise
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek (or other chile sauce)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup canola oil

Cakes
2/3 cup rice flour
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
oil for greasing pans

24 medium shrimp, fully peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
salt and pepper, to season
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

chopped fresh chives, or small pieces crystallized ginger for garnish

Place egg, grated ginger, lemon juice, sesame oil, salt, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process for a few seconds to blend. With motor running, add canola oil in a very thin stream until it is all gone and mayonnaise has solidified. Scrape into a
lidded container and refrigerate until ready. (Can be made a day in advance.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the rice flour, coconut milk eggs, melted butter, sugar, and salt.

Generously oil or butter a 24-cup mini muffin pan. Fill each cup about three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.

While cakes are baking, place peeled shrimp in a bowl and dust with sweet paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the shrimp until pink and opaque. (The paprika makes it hard to tell when it's pink!)

Place the cakes on a platter and top each with a sautéed shrimp. Put 1/2 teaspoon sesame-ginger mayonnaise on top, and garnish with chives or a piece of crystallized ginger.

Makes 24.

34 comments:

  1. I totally know those haunted tastebuds! So many things I'll probably never taste again, but so lucky for you that you were able to get close. These look and sound wonderful-I've never had anything like them before! Would love to try them!

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    1. Thanks, Christina! I get such a kick out of trying to recreate restaurant recipes! Doing it again this weekend - an Indian Mango Chicken!

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  2. Gluten free! The magic words, those and coconut and ginger. Yum!

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    1. Gluten free is so easy... sometimes! Glad you like the recipe! Thanks so much for your sweet note in memory of Mark's mother...

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  3. Ooh these look fab, David! I especially like the sound of that mayo you've made. So much flavour!

    And how cheeky of the chef to just tell you it was just coconut milk and rice flour. He blatantly didn't want to give you the recipe!

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    1. I have to admit, John, that the mayo may be my favorote part now - and it there was no may on the original at all!

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  4. What an interesting story! I have had special food memories from restaurants and then upon returning didn't find the food to live up to my expectation. I think our really great food memories have a lot to do with the company we had. Susan and Jeff must be super fantastic people!

    Your recipe re-creation looks amazing. And that mayo! I recently had a 'ramen burger' (never heard of it, must have been living under a rock) and thought about re-creating and improving. I think your mayo would be perfect!

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    1. You are so right, Cali! The people we are with make all the difference. And Susan and Jeff are really fun - and it is hard to believe that I have known her for 47 years!

      We use this mayo on our Asian tuna and salmon burgers. Bet it would be great on a ramen burger! (Never heard of one either!)

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  5. These look fantastic David! I'm glad you were able to recreate the recipe despite the server being so helpful!
    Love the incredibly flavourful mayo too, I bet it'll be perfect on many things.
    I was sorry to hear about your mother in law, I hope Mark is coping well. Hugs to both of you. Nazneen xxxx

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    1. Thanks, Nazneen - especially for your kind words about Dorothy. We are both doing well - and I just keep reminding Mark that it's okay to be sad. Hugs to you, xox

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  6. Hi David, I enjoy how you name your posts, it's always a big treat. Great story and I love, love these shrimp pillows. Heard you've had some rain......Take care, Cheri

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    1. Cheri - I am so glad you like the post titles ! I do get a little silly - but it is fun. The rain has been great - had some last night and again this morning. Monsoon season is our favorite! (As long as the AC is working...)

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  7. Coconut Rice Pillows.....
    they will be in my dreams tonight.
    I must have them!!!

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    1. Thanks, Colette - I hope you make them, and enjoy them! BTW - I didn't know Shawn was a cellist! How fun!

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  8. These look divine!! Putting them on the menu for next weekend! Having a little party with mommy friends! Can't wait.

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    1. Definitely let me know what you think, Marcelle - I hope the Mommy Party is fun!

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  9. What an interesting flavor combination! I know all about those haunting flavors! These are so elegant, too.

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    1. Thanks, Susan! I think almost every blogger I know has been haunted by one recipe or another!

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  10. I've been haunted by apparitions of long lost meals. These shrimp bites are also going to haunt me until I can try them for myself. GREG

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    1. Thanks, Greg - I hope they don't haunt you too long!

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  11. David, I think I'd have had to recreate these, too. Coconut and shrimp are one of my favorite flavor combinations. Looks like you did a superb job. YUM!

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    1. Coconut and shrimp are wonderful together. Wanna know this week's haunting? A chicken and mango curry from an Indian restaurant. Can't wait to figure this one out!

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  12. Holy moly ! Do these look great! We are invited to a vegetarian / seafood potluck.... These might be perfect! (do they have to be eaten immediately? I know they will fly off the platter but in case
    The food is served later.)

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    1. I think they would be fine at room temperature - just don't chill them. Let me know how that goes, Susan!

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    2. It was so hot that day that I went with an orzo and roasted shrimp salad...excellent but undoubtedly not as interesting as these little jewels!

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  13. Dear David, having read through your recipe, I am absolutely sure that we would all enjoy your haunted taste bud reipe. Last week, I realized when shopping that my favorite flour mill now produces wonderful rice flour - so, what a more fitting recipe to put their flour to the test - these look delicious and cute and like perfect late summertime nibbles...
    I must apologize for being so slow with comments and all this week - such a busy time with school starting again and that bbq competition thing got a little out of hand, national press wise...
    Liebe Grüße,
    Andrea

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    1. Andrea - I am so glad to hear you can now get good rice flour! Please don't worry about being behind in comments. I definitely know how that is - sometimes I am two weeks behind! How is the BBQ competition coming? At what stage are you? Happy Sunday and liebe Grüße, David

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  14. So laughing. I have also had the experience where the recipe did not match the dish. But always worth asking. And I know about a recipe haunting you. One I did not ask for, a lemon lavender cupcake, was something I worked on for a couple years until I got it right!

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    1. Inger - I can't tell whether he really knew and didn't wan to share the secret, or he really thought that was all there was to it! Anyway, it all worked in the end - maybe even better!

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  15. I've never asked for a recipe from a restaurant. I guess I've always assumed that it wouldn't be released (I've heard that chefs are quite protective of their 'intellectual property'... I have a friend who is a head chef who says that he always leaves a few notes out of recipes that he publishes so that people can't make it 'quite' as good as in the restaurant - I guess they have to keep customers in some way!). Nice to know that some chefs see differently and are happy to share! These look delicious, I'm particularly obsessed with the idea of that mayonnaise... sounds delicious!

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    1. You will love the mayonnaise, Laura! And, as for chefs parting with their recipes, I have been very fortunate here in Tucson. Most chefs do share, as long as they get the credit. Some ask me not to publish without prior permission, but many find that publishing a recipe gets them more business... kind of like a restaurant review!

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  16. Replies
    1. Haha - that is exactly how I felt - and I still have lots left!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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