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
Put the above ingredients in a food processor. Pulse on and off until the mixture forms a coarse paste.
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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3 thoughts on “Shinjo: Shrimp Dumplings”
That looks like a whole lot of work, which makes it such a shame that you didn’t like it.
I tried ebi shinjo for the first time last month at my sister-in-laws house. It was served as suimono (clear soup) with clams and mitsuba (trefoil). It was fantastic and when I asked for the recipe I was surprised to learn there WAS no recipe: just fresh raw shrimp roughly minced and formed into little free-formed balls! These just get dropped into dashi and cooked for a minute or so. Very easy sounding and although I’ve yet to try it I imagine that this is a good example of “simple is best”.
PS, Shinjo is a former baseball player: he gained fame playing for the Hanshin Tigers and then played in America for a few years, where he became the first Japanese to play in the World Series. All Japanese baseball players who make it in America are revered here, so even though he is retired he is still in the media a lot. It helps that he is quite a character and also a bit of a “himbo”.
Yes, it was a bit of work. As I was making them I sort of knew it wouldn’t work.
I’ve made lots of gefilte fish and that’s essentially what these are, except these are not kosher, being shrimp. These might have worked with only the cod, potato starch, and 1 egg white. There was too just much liquid and not enough binding.
I’ve also made quenelles with velveted and finely minced chicken breasts. You mix the chicken until it’s like a paste and then drop small spoonsful into boiling broth. The protein and cornstarch work as binders. Your sister-in-law’s recipe sounds more like these, but even simpler! I’ll keep that one in mind.
re the baseball guy: We had a Japanese exchange student visiting us when my daughter was in high school. He was thrilled to be here in time to watch the World Series because he was a SERIOUS baseball fan. I think there was a Japanese player on one of the teams, but have no idea who…
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