It appears that “Shinjo” is the name of a baseball player. It’s also a Japanese dumpling made with shrimp. Ms. Shimbo likens it to French fish-and-shellfish quenelles. This is the first recipe in this book that I cannot wholehearted say I enjoyed. Even Mr. Tess (who is usually most appreciative) admitted he didn’t care for them!!
As I read the recipe, I thought we would like this dish, so I decided to double it; it’s listed as a “hot appetizer” in the book and I wanted a meal. Then I saw how much food was accumulating in front of me as I was cooking, and I realized that this was going to be 2 meals. First, as was suggested in the recipe, I made the dumplings and used them in soup—soba in hot broth. The texture of the dumplings was soft and custard-like, but almost spongy. The shiso flavor came through strongly; the leaves I bought were huge and maybe too strong for this bland delicate dumpling. I’m also thinking soba in hot broth is not really soup. Perhaps I should have served the dumplings on the side with mustard and soy sauce, another suggestion in the introduction. I pan-fried a dumpling for lunch and did just that; the dumpling was still odd, but not unlikable. This evening, I’ll deep-fry them. How can that be bad???
Oh, so how do I know the Shinjo is a baseball guy? Or maybe a Japanese manga artist? After the dissappointing dinner last night, I looked online for other shinjo recipes. Not very many: Shrimp Balls, Ebi Shinjo, a crunchy Asian appy, and Isobe Shinjo. And they are all quite different.
serves 12 as an appetizer
I doubled the recipe and made some adaptations. Like her recipe for sweet-potato cakes, this one also seems to suffer from too much liquid.
- 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
- Saucepan of boiling water
- 1/2 cup dashi
- 1 teaspoon shoyu
Cut the stems from the mushrooms. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4″ to 1/2″ dice. Cook the mushrooms for 10 seconds, drain, and cool. In a small bowl, toss the mushrooms with the dashi and shoyu.
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons potato starch
- 1 cup dashi (this is less than the original recipe, but still too much I think)
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- 6 shiso leaves
Stir potato starch and dashi together in a measuring cup. Put the egg whites in another measuring cup with a pouring lip. Mince the shiso and reserve.
And of course:
- 10 ounces small shrimp, headed, peeled and deveined
- 8 ounces cod, skinned and boned
- 1/2 Tablespoon salt
Transfer the mixture to a suribachi. Little by little, add the egg whites. Grind or press to make a smooth paste. Continue grinding and add the dashi/potato starch a little at a time. Fold in the mushrooms and minced shiso. This mixture is more akin to batter than dough—quite loose.
Have on hand:
- Twelve 8″ squares of parchment paper.
- 1/2 cup container (a teacup or a plastic food storage cup)
- a second cup that will fit inside the first one
- kitchen string
- A large pot of boiling water
Crinkle a square of parchment, place it over the cup and use the smaller cup to press the paper to the bottom. Spoon some of the batter. Bring the corners of the paper together, and tie to make a round packet. Make 12 packets.
Put 6 packets into the boiling water and turn heat down to medium. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes (this is longer than the original recipe). Remover the packets, drain, and cool for 10 minutes. Unwrap the packets, set the dumplings on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to a day.
I chose the option to use half of them in a soup: hot soba noodles in broth. The side dish is purchased Korean cucumber kimchee. For lunch today, I pan-fried one dumpling and ate it with some (a lot of) mustard and soy sauce—as Ms. Shimbo suggested in the introduction to her recipe.
With the other half, I will proceed with the recipe for fried dumplings/quenelles.
- Vegetable oil, for deep frying
- 6 shiso leaves
- 1 1/2 cup tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce)
- 2 Tablespoons peeled and grated ginger
In a large deep skillet, heat 2″ of vegetable oil to 300°F. Take the dumplings from the fridge to let them warm for 20 minutes. Fry the whole shiso leaves one at a time over low heat until they become bright green and translucent, 5 seconds. Put them on a rack, and sprinkle with a little salt.
Dry the dumplings. Increase the oil temperature to 360°F and add the dumplings, 2 at a time. Cook until golden and crisp. Transfer to a rack. Cook all the dumplings.
Heat the tempura dipping sauce. Serve the dumplings covered with the hot sauce and garnished with grated ginger and fried shiso leaves.
Edit to report on how the deep fried dumplings were: Some of them fell apart in the oil. They were just too soft. Even with care, none of them developed a nice crispy crust but they did not get greasy or absorb the oil. You can see in the picture of the cut dumpling that they maintained the odd texture. The shiso leaves fried up beautifully, though. Also, another picture.
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