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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mexican Street Food at Home: Shrimp Burgers

                                            Puerto Vallarta-Style Shrimp Burger                        Photo by Zack Popovsky

Mexican Street Food at Home:  Shrimp Burgers
By Victoria Challancin

 Magic.  Street food is magic to me.  Wherever I go in the world, it calls to me, as if speaking to me alone saying, "Vicki, come.  Try me.  Smell this.  Taste just a bite.  You'll never enjoy anything so good or so authentic again."  The smells beckon, the sounds accompany them, and the food excites every sense.  And if the food itself is magic, then the vendors are pure magicians, turning out their fare day after day with pride and a minimum of fuss, a minimum of utensils.  Often the recipes are from someone's mother or grandmother, something popular, something special, something delicious.  Whether it is fish head soup, satay, grilled sparrow, kebabs (from anywhere...anywhere...oh, how I love freshly grilled kebabs...I weep for lovingly prepared kebabs), shawarma, corn, mussels, sambusas, ice cream, sausages, crêpes, tacos, tamales, bhaji, frites, arepas, noodles, or jerk (just to mention a few) can bet that if you give into the urge to try freshly prepared street food, you life will be changed forever.

But what about food safety, you ask?  My rule of thumb, which has served me well, is stick to that food and those ingredients which hopefully haven't been sitting out for long without refrigeration; always eat only food that is freshly prepared and piping hot, and look for a vendor whose person and cart are spotlessly clean.  And lines of people.  Look for popular spots. [Yes, I am one of those people who likes to stop at diners when on the road in the US--the diners with lots of trucks outside, and truckers inside.  My husband swears it is about parking space, but I know better.  These guys and sometimes gals know where the best food is and never steer me wrong].  OK.  You might want to travel with some Pepto Bismol as well, just don't let fear cause you to miss out on some of the most exciting food joy our world has to offer.

And this brings me to Mexico, my home.  Mexico, queen of incomparable street food.

When my son returned from spending his last year of high school in France, I asked him in that silly way of mothers who just assume their child has been pining away for some lovingly prepared, special childhood favorite food, "Darling, what you like to eat?  What have you missed?"  Now you might be right in thinking that in France my child hardly suffered from a lack of fabulous food on a daily basis, but still, home is home.  Right?  And a year is a long time to go without some of Mom's cooking.  Or so I thought.  His response dispelled that notion rather quickly.  What did he miss?  "Tacos de cabeza y milanesa con Tajin."  Basically, that means head tacos and pounded, breaded meat with a sprinkle of spicy chile seasoning with lime.  So much for my homemade lasagna.  Off to the puestos, or food carts, for Zack as I just don't keep goat heads lying about.  Usually.

This particular recipe is for a shrimp burger I tasted on one of our family trips to Puerto Vallarta, on the west coast of Mexico.  The street food there often features seafood, of course, and it is delectable.  The shrimp burgers I atethere came with a terrific, spicy white sauce that no amount of wheedling could entice the cook to share, but the avocado aioli works beautifully.

I tested this particular recipe for Marcela Valladolid for her Mexican Made Easy show for Food Network.  Marce's version is totally pureed, but leaving chunks of shrimp in the "burgers" is more like those that I personally love best.

Recipe:  Puerto Vallarta-Style Shrimp Burgers with Avocado Aioli
(Recipe adapted from one by Marcela Valladolid)

Shrimp Burgers:
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 poblano chile,roasted peeled, stemmed, seeded,and diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons canola oil

Hamburger buns, split in half
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
6 lettuce leaves or a mixture of baby lettuce leaves

Avocado Aioli
1 Haas avocado, halved, seeded, and peeled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 serrano chile, cut in half and seeded
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the shrimp burgers:
Dived the shrimp in half.   Coarsely chop one half and set aside.  Put remaining half in a food processor and grind to a coarse puree.  Add egg, cilantro, and garlic to processor.  Process until smooth.  Sprinkle mixture with breadcrumbs and process again.  Transfer contents of food processor to a large bowl.    Add coarsely chopped shrimp, poblano chile,and onion.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Chill for 15minutes.  Form patties or "burghers" and set aside.
 Heat oil in a heavy skillet.  When very hot, fry the shrimp burgers until golden, about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  Drain on paper towels.

For the avocado aioli:
Scoop the avocado pulp into the bowl of a food processor.  Add the mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic cloves, serrano chile, cilantro, salt, and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Check and adjust seasoning.

I am submitting this recipe to Spicie Foodie's YBR (Your Best Recipe) for the July event.  Pop over to Nancy's beautiful and interesting blog by a Mexican expat living in Europe to see what other bloggers consider their very best of the month!

Parting Shot:
 Ceramic Catrinas in a store window in San Miguel de Allende

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks.


FOODalogue said...

Definitely a burger I'd enjoy.

I'm glad you added the safety pointers of street food. I love the concept and usual authenticity but have heretofore been a bit fearful of street food when traveling.

Food truck have seem to become a phenomena in recent years all over and I guess with popularity comes a modicum of regulation and health safety.

Mark said...

Hi Victoria, I would love to try street food in Mexico some day. I've always been curious with real Mexican food (as opposed to the modified stuff we eat in the US). I'll start with the shrimp burger!

Street food is definitely a current topic here in the US - as the previous comment mentioned. Food trucks, farmers markets, etc. Finally learning from the rest of the world where the good food is made.

Good points about food safety. I wish I could find a cart that is spotlessly clean in Penang, but I think I might starve:) I agree, go to the stalls with lots of people. You can't go wrong.

Eha said...

I absolutely adore street food, but have experienced the latter only in Eastern countries . . . no idea what Mexico's entails tho' I have been to Puerto Vallarta :) ! My rule of thumb in Asian countries has been to keep away from most raw items and ice and eat what I can see cooked before me. No Montezuma's Revenge ever - the worst of that came in one of Northern Europe's finest eateries enjoying spring green eel fingerlings! I have never had shrimp burgers either and love the recipe. Will try soonest - actually there could be variations on the theme with other seafoods, couldn't there? Have a lovely weekend, Victoria and thanks for another lesson!

CorrieCooks said...

Oh please don't remind me of eating street food!!! I was pregnant and after taking the boat from main land Samoa to a little island called Savaii, I needed food and I needed it NOW, so we pulled up at this little shop that had food in a bain marie....chow mein....should have known!!!!...Yep I got sick. Not pretty. And I couldn't do much site seeing sitting on the loo all the time now could I?! :-( Trouble is when you are in Singapore you just HAVE to eat the "hawker" street food! It is sooooo good!!! :-)

Healthy Recipes said...

Lovely :) I can dare to try this :P

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I adore street food so much too! I have a similar theory about eating it and food safety. Also places that do a high turnover seem to be a bit better, I guess the food doesn't have a chance to sit around :) said...

The minute I read shrimp burger, street vendors...I also though safety...I would love to try this and grilling it.

I lost about 300 of my e-mails so I am commenting here and I am sorry if I missed some of your posts....

Chompchomp said...

Wow a shrimp burger...or prawn burger as we would call it over here. I had never heard of such a thing but it sounds delicious! I love trying street food when travelling but I do have to be a bit careful. To avoid accidently eating one of the many things Im allergic to I carry a translated eating card and since I have done this I have had minimal problems.

Sawsan@chef in disguise said...

Hello Victoria,
You remind me of my dad, he LOVES street food and doesn't consider a visit to any country complete without a visit to the market and a meal at the carts or diners :)

Nancy said...

I have to agree. Out of all of the countries I've visited or lived in, Mexico has the best street food. Though I hear Thailand is also very good.

The shrimp burgers look delicious. Thanks for being a part of the YBR.

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