Chef John's Spicy Shrimp Cakes


I love Asian-style fish or shrimp cakes but almost never order them because I find there's too much filler or 'binder.' So if you want to enjoy shrimp cakes in their most pure form, give this recipe a try. It takes just a few minutes if you use your food processor. These little fried cakes are delicious served with Thai chili sauce.

8 appetizer-size portions


  • 2 pounds raw peeled and deveined shrimp

  • 1 tablespoon finely crushed garlic, or to taste

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

  • 1 teaspoon sambal chili paste, or more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or as desired

  • ½ teaspoon fish sauce

  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs, or more if needed

  • vegetable oil for frying


  1. Place shrimp, garlic, cilantro, chili paste, brown sugar, salt, fish sauce, turmeric, and cayenne pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off until mixture begins to break down. Scrape down the sides. Continue processing until mixture is very smooth but not pureed and moves around the bowl as a mass. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; press wrap against the surface of the shrimp paste. Refrigerate until mixture is chilled, 1 to 2 hours.

  2. Place panko crumbs on a plate. Scoop out equal size portions of shrimp and roll them around on the crumbs to coat. Shape into thin patties. Do this in batches.

  3. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, cook cakes in batches. Fry until golden brown and cakes spring back to the touch, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Cook's Notes:

If you don't have a food processor, just pile up the ingredients on a cutting and, using a large knife or cleaver, chop until you get a paste which actually takes less time and effort than you expect.

Start with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. You can fry up a small bit to check for seasonings before shaping and cooking all the patties.

If you can't find sambal chili paste, you can use an equal amount of freshly minced hot peppers.

If you're using a deep fryer to cook the cakes, you can shape them into small balls instead of flat patties.

Serve these with Thai-Style Sweet Chili Sauce.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

302 Calories
17g Fat
21g Carbs
20g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 302
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 157mg 52%
Sodium 580mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 61mg 5%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 208mg 4%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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