Crispy Panko Shrimp Tacos with Sesame Slaw

crispy shrimp web

illustration: tram nguyen

Deep frying is “dangerous, y’all. But so is tanning, supposedly? And until noted medical professional Jenny McCarthy tells me otherwise, I’m going to keep doing both.

You don’t need vast quantities of oil, or a fancy deep fryer like my brother, just a smallish pot with high sides or a wok. A few pairs of chopsticks keep things from getting too messy and also serve as a makeshift thermometer. Just stick a single chopstick into the oil, and when bubbles immediately form on the surface, you know the oil is ready.

I made these tacos the other night for dinner, and they came together fairly quickly and easily. On fragrant corn tortillas, we had crispy panko-crusted shrimp paired with a bright simple slaw that is good enough to eat on its own, with a smoky, creamy aioli to bind it all together. I fried my shrimp in small batches, so as not to stress myself out too much, and yet I only had to keep my stove on for twelve minutes, tops. A definite good thing when you lack central air in your hot Chicago apartment.


Makes 2 Servings

Sesame Slaw
4 1/2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
A few shots of Sriracha (optional)

Chipotle Mayonnaise
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
2 chipotles in adobe
1 tsp. adobo sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 of a lime, juiced
Salt to taste

Panko Shrimp
16 large shrimp (21/25 ct), peeled and deveined
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko
Salt and pepper to taste

Avocado oil, or another oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut or canola oil

Corn tortillas

To serve:
Hot Sauce
Lime wedges

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the slaw. Toss to combine and let sit in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes.

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the chipotle mayonnaise and transfer to refrigerator.

Fill a small, deep pot with about 1/2” of oil. Heat on medium to medium low.

Place your shrimp on paper towels, dabbing until they are as dry as possible. Coat shrimp in flour. Using chopsticks, dip the shrimp in egg, and then toss in panko until the shrimp are evenly coated. Check your oil using a single clean chopstick. If bubbles immediately form on the surface of the chopstick, your oil is hot enough to cook with.

Working in small batches so as to not overcrowd the pot (I did three at a time), gently place your panko-covered shrimp into the hot oil, turning once so that they cook evenly. Remove when the shrimp are golden brown, just a shade or two lighter than Tan Mom. This process takes about a minute and a half, but if you find your shrimp cooking too quickly or too slowly, you may need to adjust the heat accordingly. Place your fried shrimp on a plate lined with a few layers of paper towels to drain excess oil and season with salt and pepper while they’re still hot.

When you are ready to eat, heat up the corn tortillas. Place two shrimp, slaw, and a drizzle of mayonnaise on each taco. Serve with hot sauce and lime wedges.

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