Bring a Thai flare to your dinner party with these spicy shrimp cakes! This is my own hybrid recipe between our traditional Thai fish cake (tod mun pla) and Thai shrimp cakes (tod mun goong), combining the best features of each.
These addictive appetizers are crunchy on the outside and tender and bouncy on the inside. They're as tasty as crab cakes, but easier and more affordable to make! They can also be prepped ahead of time (see below for details), making it easy to serve these at a party.
You won't find this unique dish in any Thai restaurant so that's a treat!
Shrimp Cakes, Fish Cakes, and the Hybrid
Traditionally in Thailand shrimp cakes are plainly seasoned, served with plum sauce, and they don't taste particularly Thai. In fact, they tend to be more associated with Chinese restaurants. But I love the crunch and the bouncy texture of these shrimp cakes, and wondered if there are ways to make them a little more Thai.
Thai fish cakes, on the other hand, are suuuper flavourful thanks to the red curry paste, but they are deep fried without breading or batter, so they don't end up looking particularly pretty, and they don't have the crunch. It is also a little more finicky to get the right fish for the right texture.
So I got the idea to make the crunchy, beautiful shrimp cakes, but borrowing the bold red curry flavours of Thai fish cakes and its sweet chili sauce. The result was stunning. In fact, it's so good I'm surprised this is not (yet) a thing in Thailand!
Here are all the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe. For amounts, check out the full recipe card below.
The Shrimp Cakes
- Raw shrimp. I prefer using fresh shrimp for this recipe because commercially frozen shrimp have an ice glaze around them. When they thaw, the melted ice makes the shrimp very wet, and if not dried well, the extra water will cause your mixture to be too runny to form into balls. So if you have to use frozen shrimp, dry them off super-duper well after thawing. You could even let them air dry in the fridge for a few hours to be safe.
- Red curry paste. Store bought curry paste is fine for this but they do vary quite a bit in saltiness and heat level. I use Maeploy for this. See my post here comparing the most popular brands of Thai red curry paste.
- Coconut milk
- Makrut lime leaves, (aka kaffir lime leaves) centre rib removed and very thinly julienned
- Long beans, chopped into ¼" pieces. You can substitute French green beans (the small, skinny ones). You can also do a combination of long beans and corn as I have done in the video.
- Fish sauce. The amount of fish sauce you need will depend on how salty your curry paste is. For your first time, I recommend mixing everything without the fish sauce, and then cook a small amount of the mixture on a frying pan or in the microwave to taste, so you know where you're starting from.
- Panko bread crumbs. Panko style breadcrumbs have larger flakes and will give the crunch and texture they're supposed to have.
- Oil for frying. I use canola oil, but vegetable oil or other neutral flavoured frying oil is fine.
- Fresh cucumber slices for serving, optional.
Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
You can certainly buy Thai sweet chili sauce from many grocery stores, but the homemade version is much better and is quite easy. This recipe makes a small amount, but if you want to make it in bulk and keep in the fridge, here's my sweet chili sauce recipe. Alternatively, plum sauce would also work.
- White vinegar
- Mild red chilies, chopped into small pieces. A red bell pepper will work, as will any other mild red pepper you have available.
- Thai chilies, add as much as you like to customize the heat level of your sauce (or add none at all).
- Peanuts, roasted and crushed, optional
- Cilantro for garnish, optional, or sub green onions
How to Make Shrimp Cakes
Here are all the steps to make this recipe. If this is your first time, I highly recommend watching the video tutorial to ensure success, especially the shaping and breading technique!
For the Shrimp Cake Mixture
- Add the coconut milk to a sauté pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, to reduce the liquid until it becomes a thick paste. Let it cool completely in the freezer while you prep other ingredients.
- In a mixing bowl, add the cooled curry paste, chopped long beans, corn (if using), makrut lime leaves, sugar, and fish sauce.
- Grind the dry shrimp and the egg in a food processor until it looks like a smooth paste, stopping the scrape the side of the food processor bowl a few times. Add the shrimp mixture to the mixing bowl and stir everything together until well mixed. Put this mixture in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, while you make the dipping sauce.
For the Dipping Sauce
- In a mortar and pestle, pound together the chilies and the garlic into a paste and transfer the mixture into a small pot. Add the sugar and vinegar and let simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken. The mixture will also thicken as it cools. (Alternatively, blend the chilies and the garlic together with the sugar and the vinegar until coarsely blended and transfer to the pot.)
- While the dipping sauce is cooling, shape and fry the shrimp cakes.
Shaping the Shrimp Cakes
*It's best to watch the video tutorial to see how this is done.
- Divide the shrimp cake into roughly 1 tablespoon portions using a small disher or a spoon (the resulting balls should be about 1-1.25 inches in diameter, so you can roll one up to check the size.)
- Put the panko bread crumbs into a wide, shallow bowl. Wet your hands with water and roll each shrimp cake portion into a ball (or patties, if you go that route). It's important to have wet hands otherwise the shrimp mixture will stick to your hands.
- Drop the ball into the panko until there is no more room in the bowl.
- Spoon the panko over the shrimp cake to cover the balls, and with dry hands, grab each shrimp cake and gently press the panko onto the surface and set them on another plate.
*You can make larger pieces, but in that case I would make patties, or the doughnut shapes as per the pictures of traditional shrimp cakes above. Large balls will take too long to cook.
Frying the Shrimp Cakes
See alternatives to deep frying below.
- Add oil to a pot until it's at least 1" deep and heat it to 350°F (175°C). Drop the shrimp cakes into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes or until the bread crumbs are a deep golden brown. They will puff up and may crack slightly, which is expected.
- Place finished shrimp cakes on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil. They will continue to darken slightly as they sit.
- Right before serving, add the crushed peanuts and chopped cilantro to the dipping sauce and serve alongside the shrimp cake.
- Serve these with some fresh cucumber slices to add a touch of crunch and freshness!
Making Shrimp Cakes in Advance
There are a few ways to go about prepping these in advance:
- You can shape and bread the shrimp cakes up to one day before and keep them covered in the fridge, then fry them when ready to serve.
- You can fry them ahead of time, then reheat them in a 375°F (190°C) oven for about 8 minutes or until warmed through.
- The dipping sauce can be made far in advance without the peanuts and cilantro, which should be added when serving. The sauce should last you a few months in the fridge so you can make this in bulk if you wish.
These reheat surprisingly well! Heat them in an air fryer for about 5 minutes at 350°F (175°C), or in a pre-heated oven on rack for about 8 minutes at 375°F (190°C).
Alternatives to Deep Frying
If you are opposed to deep frying, you can shallow fry them instead.
To shallow fry: Form the shrimp cakes into ½-inch thick patties rather than balls, then shallow fry them over medium-high heat for a few minutes per side, until the panko is golden brown. Use enough oil so that it comes halfway up the patties.
You can also try baking them, but you will need to bake and brown the panko first as it will not brown in the oven once they're on the shrimp cakes.
- Drizzle or spray the panko with a little oil and toss them with your hands to distribute the oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake in a 400°C (200°C) oven for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Keep the oven on.
- Form the shrimp cakes into ½-inch patties instead of balls and then coat them in the panko. Bake them for about 8-10 minutes or until they are cooked through.
Thai Shrimp Cakes Recipe
- Food processor
The Shrimp Cakes
- 10.5 oz peeled & deveined shrimp, see note 1
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoon red curry paste
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 3 makrut lime leaves, centre rib removed and very thinly julienned
- ½ cup long beans or green beans, chopped into ¼" pieces. Or do a combination of long beans and corn
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce, see note 2
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- oil for frying, I use canola oil
- Fresh cucumber slices for serving
Sweet Chili Sauce (Store bought is fine too)
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ red bell pepper, or another mild red pepper (in Thailand we use spur chilies)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Thai chili, or to taste, optional
- 2 tablespoon crushed roasted peanuts, optional
- 2 sprigs cilantro, chopped, optional
- Weigh the shrimp AFTER THAWING AND DRYING. Frozen shrimp are glazed in a layer of ice that will make them heavier than they actually are. Dry them very well after thawing with paper towel as excess water from thawing will cause the mixture to be too soft to form.
- The amount of fish sauce you need will depend on how salty your curry paste is. For your first time making this recipe, I recommend adding just 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, and then cook a small amount of the mixture on a frying pan or in the microwave to taste.
FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL
All my recipes come with step-by-step video tutorials with extra tips not mentioned in the blog post, so make sure you watch the video to ensure success. If you enjoy them, consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel to not miss an episode. Thank you!Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
To make the shrimp cakes:
- Add the coconut milk to a sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, to reduce the liquid until it becomes a thick paste. Transfer to a small bowl and let it cool completely in the freezer while you grind the shrimp.¼ cup coconut milk, 3 tablespoon red curry paste
- Grind the shrimp and the egg in a food processor, scraping the sides once or twice, until very fine; it should look like a paste. Add the shrimp mixture to a large mixing bowl.10.5 oz peeled & deveined shrimp, 1 egg
- To the shrimp, add the cooled curry paste, chopped long beans, corn (if using), makrut lime leaves, sugar, and fish sauce. Stir everything together until well mixed. Put this mixture in the fridge while you make the dipping sauce.3 makrut lime leaves, ½ cup long beans or green beans, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar
For the Sweet Chili Sauce
- Pound together the red pepper, Thai chilies and the garlic into a paste and transfer the mixture into a small pot. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pot and let simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken. The mixture will also thicken as it cools. While the dipping sauce is cooling, shape and fry the shrimp cakes.¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ red bell pepper, 1 clove garlic, 1 Thai chili
Shape and Fry the Shrimp Cakes
- To shape the shrimp cakes (this part will be easier to understand via the video tutorial!): Scoop the shrimp cake mixture into about 1 tablespoon portions using a small disher or a tablespoon. Lay them out on a plate.
- Put the panko into a wide, shallow bowl. Wet your hands with some water, roll each shrimp cake portion into a ball, and drop the ball into the panko. You can also shape them into patties rather than balls so they cook faster. Continue rolling until there's no more room in the panko bowl. Spoon the panko over the shrimp cake to cover, and with dry, clean hands, grab each shrimp cake and gently press the panko onto the surface and set them on another plate.1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- Fry the shrimp cakes: Add frying oil to a pot or wok until it's at least 1" deep. Heat the oil to 350 F. Drop the shrimp cake and fry for 2-3 minutes, they will puff up and may crack slightly, which is expected. Once they are golden brown, drain them on a paper towel-lined plate. They will continue to darken slightly after they've been removed from the oil.oil for frying
- Right before serving, add the crushed peanuts and chopped cilantro to the dipping sauce and serve alongside the shrimp cake. Serve these with some fresh cucumber slices to add a touch of crunch and freshness!Fresh cucumber slices for serving, 2 tablespoon crushed roasted peanuts, 2 sprigs cilantro