Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Ginger-Lemongrass Shrimp Cakes Recipe
In Paris one summer, I was told by my then husband that when speaking French, instead of sounding correctly guttural, my "r"s sounded aspirated, which is kind of a nice way of saying your accent sucks, and you’re talking like an American. Blessed with a fairly good ear for language, this did not sit well with me. I wanted to blend in. I wanted everyone to speak to me as if I was a native, to be dumbfounded when I revealed my nationality. I would not accept my aspirated American "r"s as a linguistic handicap. No way. I would no longer say, “Mehci beaucoup. Au revoih, à tout à l’euh!” Oh no. That would call me out instantly. Nor would I stand to utter anything so derogatory as “J’adoh les escahgots avec du beuh et du pehsil,” about those elegant French snails. I had a plan, and for my plan, I needed a new name, a disguise. On the walk back from the heart of Paris to my husband’s father’s house, I became Véronique.
“Exaggerate the sound; it’s aggressive, that "r",” encouraged my Swiss-French husband, and not feeling like American Banu while pronouncing these very foreign sounds, Véronique provided my cover. Véronique could read every word and sentence in sight, aggressively pronounce the "r"s, and add an extra feminine French flair to the rest: crème caramels, crème fraiche, rapide, rapide, les Citroëns, les livraisons, arrêt de bus, marché aux Puces, gésiers d'oie, etc. By the time we reached our destination, and with some helpful tips from my then husband, I was sounding more like a French person. Or more like Véronique, anyway.
I mention all of this because I need another name. I have a new video camera, and I’m learning a new language. The video posted here is my first attempt at filming or editing anything and it is a beginning. I’d like to introduce a regular video element to my blog, and I’ve decided that it will be an experiment in content and in style, and that I’ll allow it to evolve. So, in honor of René Clair, and his fantastic Dadaist film, Entr'acte, which I have only recently seen, I have dubbed myself René. My humble first video is like a full spoken minute of aspirated "r"s, but I’ll practice, and in doing so, I might just one day be able to flawlessly pronounce my self-given alter egos' names. And in the meantime, I’m going to go enjoy some of these tasty shrimp cakes. À tout à l'heurrre.
Ginger-Lemongrass Shrimp Cakes Recipe
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemongrass, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon salt
Put the first five ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whiz them around. Add the shrimp and the salt, and process until everything is combined. Form the shrimp mixture into a log using plastic wrap. Unwrap, and cut into inch-thick pieces. Steam for about five minutes in a bamboo steamer, or pan-fry over medium-high heat until crispy on one side, then flip, and cook briefly on the other. For textural contrast, I steamed half of the shrimp cakes, and pan-fried the other. Serve immediately with the following sauce.
Spicy Thai-Style Dipping Sauce Recipe
Note from Banu: this made enough sauce for the amount of shrimp cakes in the above recipe, but you could double it if you wanted more. I added maple syrup because I was out of regular sugar, and I liked it, and will probably use it in other Thai dressings I make, as it didn’t overwhelm with maple flavor, as I suspected it would.
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons maple syrup
juice of 1 lime
1 serrano chile, sliced (or sliced red Thai bird chiles, for more heat)
red pepper flakes, to taste