Mary Cooks: Shrimp Cakes with Wasabi Tartar Sauce

Last night's dinner included a potato rosti that yielded five servings. For tonight's dinner, I was looking for something that would pair well with that leftover potato. And where I come from, there are few things that go better with fried potato than fried fish. Earlier today over my morning coffee, I found a recipe for shrimp cakes on the Foodista blog and knew it was dinner.

A quick review of the required ingredients without also a quick review of what we had on hand led me to believe that this meal could be made quickly and easily with only the acquisition of a little panko and a little mayo. As my counterpart can attest, any time I claim that we already have something in the pantry, there is about a 65% chance that I will be dead wrong. So tonight's cooking adventure was an exercise in quick thinking and substitution. And it was much more typical of my time in the kitchen as I stumbled around the recipe, arms flailing, wondering how on earth it would all come together.

At least some of what I will need for tonight's dinner

But, come together it did, and it was pretty tasty.

For the shrimp cakes, you will need 1 1/2 pounds of Oregon pink shrimp. And here is where the substitutions begin. We always have shrimp in the freezer. Always. And today was no exception. We did not have Oregon pink shrimp, but I thought we would have a close proximity. We did not. Oregon pink shrimp are those tiny little guys people like to use in shrimp salad. The shrimp I had on hand were jumbo tiger shrimp just short of actual prawn. Undaunted, I pulled five of them out to thaw in a bowl of lukewarm water while I assembled the rest of my ingredients for what I reckoned would be about a half batch:

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs - I used panko

2 celery stalks - even though I was making a half batch, I used the full amount of celery

1/4 white onion

1 small green pepper - I used a serrano pepper, it being both small and green

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp Tabasco - which we did not have on hand, which is shocking. I used


Mexican-style hot sauce

1 egg

1 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce - which we also did not have on hand, so I used

Picka Peppa


I used a food processor to mince the veg and blend it with the spices. Then in a large bowl, I combined this with the egg and the panko.  At a loss for what to do with those enormous shrimp, I coarsely ground them in the food processor as well by pulsing them quickly about 10 times. I added this to the rest of the ingredients and let it rest while I made the tartar sauce.

Shrimp cake mix - it doesn't look like anything is missing....

For the sauce you will need:

1/2 cup sour cream - I used the good crema Mexicana

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 1/5 Tbsp ground ginger

1 glove garlic, pressed

1/2 Tbsp white vermouth - this I knew we did not have. I added a splash of flat champagne instead

1/2 Tbsp seasame oil

1/2 tsp lime zest - I used lemon

1/2 Tbsp lime juice - I used lemon here too

1 tsp wasabi paste - I used wasabi powder

I mixed everything together and set aside in the fridge to chill while I cooked my shrimp cakes.

Wasabi tartar sauce

My mix was something close to a crab cake mix. I got about five patties out of it but noticed that they did not seem to stick together as well as they should and was feeling as if the recipe had left out some key ingredient. I patted some more panko on them before frying them up. 

Shrimp cakes ready for the skillet

I cooked them in a skillet in a generous amount of grape seed oil, allowing about four minutes per side as the recipe instructed, and let them cool on a paper towel-lined plate. I reheated a wedge of rosti in the same skillet.

As I was plating up, I realized that they key ingredient was probably something like mayo, and that I had forgotten it. Sure enough, a good tablespoon of mayo was included in the recipe but not in my little cakes.

Cooking on the stovetop

Even so, my little shrimp cakes were tender and delicious. While the panko really does need the mayo to keep the cakes together, it forms a nice crust on the outside when fried. The cakes were spicy and slightly sweet with a good shrimpy flavor. The tartar sauce was actually a bit busy with a lot of different flavors but nothing really pulling it all together. It was better with these cakes than a more traditional tartar sauce, though, and the creamy texture was nice against the fried cakes.

Even with the mishaps I encountered, I still feel this was a success. I also feel as if I'm learning more about cooking. A lot of it feels like timing. Preparing this meal had me running around the kitchen a lot while last night's roasted poussin did not. While that was the more elegant dish, I think it might actually have been easier at least in part because of the timing. A good plan also helps. I'm not sure I really had one tonight.

Plated up with last night's potato rosti