Lacy Seafood Pancakes

Kaki Agé

A variation on the theme of batter-fried foods, these lacy pancakes are typically made of bits and pieces of leftovers. Freshly fried and piping hot, the crispy pancakes need only a squeeze of lemon and/or a pinch of salt and fragrant pepper to bring out their fine flavor. And any leftover pancakes are delicious the next day, when you can serve them over rice with a robust soy-flavored sauce (see the, Tendon).

Ingredients

Shrimp Filling

  • 4 small shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 slender scallion, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 slender zucchini, about 3 ounces, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal, then across into ¼-inch julienne strips

Squid Filling

  • ¼-⅓ cup chopped squid (the legs and “wings” left over from the Squid and Endive Salad)
  • 2 slender scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 baking potato, about 3 ounces, peeled and cut into ½-inch julienne strips

Batter

  • 1 egg
  • ice water
  • cup self-rising cake flour
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

Condiments

  • lemon wedges
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon sansho (fragrant Japanese pepper)

Method

  1. Combine the shrimp filling ingredients in one small bowl, the squid filling ingredients in another.
  2. Beat the egg with enough ice water to make cup, and pour into bowl. Sift the flour over the liquid, and with chopsticks or a fork, barely mix the two. There should be plenty of lumps, and flour should still be sticking to the sides of the bowl.
  3. Fill a wok or other deep-fryer with 1½-2 inches of oil. Heat the oil to about 370 degrees. Test the temperature with a few drops of batter: It should sink ever so slightly, rise and puff on the surface immediately, and sizzle but not brown quickly.
  4. Pour half the batter over the shrimp filling ingredients. Use a small-mesh strainer to scoop up about one quarter of the filling ingredients. Allow excess batter to drip through the mesh back into the bowl. Gently pour the batter-bound ingredients into the hot oil to make a 3-inch pancake. If many bits disperse, lower the heat ever so slightly, and use chopsticks to retrieve the wayward pieces and place them on top of the still-uncooked batter in the center of the pancake. If there seems to be too little batter binding the ingredients, add a bit where you think necessary. It is usually best to err on the stingy side.
  5. Flip the pancake and then let it fry, undisturbed, for 1-1½ minutes. Flip the pancake back again and fry for another 30 seconds. Remove the pancake to a paper-towel-lined rack and proceed to make three more shrimp-filled pancakes in the same manner. If you are trying this recipe for the first time, it’s best to make one pancake at a time; once you get the knack of it, you can fry two or three at a time in a 12- to 16-inch-wide wok or other deep frying pan. You can keep the shrimp pancakes warm in a preheated 300-degree oven.
  6. Add the remaining batter to the squid pancake ingredients and proceed to make four pancakes in the same manner as you did the shrimp. It’s important to combine the batter and ingredients at the last moment, just before you are ready to fry them.
  7. Serve the pancakes hot, two of each kind to each person. Mix the salt and pepper together, and serve the lemon wedges and salt-and-pepper mixture on the side. Each person squeezes lemon juice and sprinkles the salt-and-pepper mixture over his or her own pancakes while eating.

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