Vietnamese Sweet Potato and Prawn Fritters- Banh Tom
Banh Tom, or Vietnamese Sweet Potato and Prawn Fritters, is a popular street food delicacy hailing from the exquisite culinary tradition of Vietnam. The dish is a perfect blend of sweet, crispy sweet potatoes and succulent prawns, coated in a light batter and deep-fried until golden. Originating in Hanoi’s Ho Tay area, Banh Tom offers a delightful crunch with every bite, a truly mouthwatering treat that perfectly captures the unique balance of flavors that Vietnamese cuisine is known for.
Banh Tom is typically served with a side of Nuoc Mam, a fish-based sauce that adds an extra layer of flavor to the dish. The sweet and sour flavor of Nuoc Mam pairs perfectly with the deep fried prawns and potatoes, making Banh Tom an even more irresistible snack.
Because Banh Tom is a deep-fried dish, overindulgence can lead to a feeling of richness or heaviness. The solution to this is incorporating a variety of herbs, such as Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil, and mint, into the meal. These herbs introduce a refreshing element that establishes a balance with the deep-fried fritters, preventing the dish from becoming overly heavy and maintaining the signature harmony of flavors synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine.
To make your own Banh Tom at home, all you need are some sweet potatoes, prawns, a light batter mix of flour and water and Nuoc Mam for dipping. It is also possible to buy pre-made Banh Tom mixes from your local Vietnamese grocer if you don’t have the time or ingredients to make them yourself.
So, why wait any longer? Let’s dive in and learn how to make this delightful dish!
Tips to Choose Quality Ingredients
When preparing Banh Tom, the selection of quality ingredients is crucial to ensure the final dish is as flavorful and authentic as possible.
- Sweet Potatoes: For sweet potatoes, it is best to choose those with a clean, unblemished surface, without any cracks or splits. When you pick them up, they should feel firm and heavy, not soft or mushy. Any sweet potatoes that are black or have spots could be a sign that they have spoiled and should not be used.
- Prawns: It’s essential to select fresh prawns for this dish. Look for prawns that are intact, with the head and body firmly attached, and the legs not detached. Avoid purchasing prawns that are mushy or have an unusual, foul odor. Fresh prawns will give your Banh Tom the best flavor and texture.
- Herbs: As for the herbs, freshness is key. Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil and mint should be vibrant in color, aromatic, and free from any brown spots or wilting.
Remember, the quality of your ingredients plays a significant role in the taste of your Banh Tom.
- 10-12 large prawns, peeled and deveined (400g)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into thin matchsticks (400g)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup rice flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder for color
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 shallot minced
- Lettuce, a few leaves
- Vietnamese coriander, a handful
- Thai basil, a handful
For Dipping Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons Nuoc Mam sauce
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 chili pepper, minced (optional)
Step1: Preparing the Ingredients
First, thoroughly wash the prawns. Depending on your preference, you might want to peel them or not. Many people prefer to leave the heads and shells on as they become crispy when fried. However, make sure to devein the prawns, remove the legs and soak them in salt water to eliminate any undesirable smell.
Next, marinate the prawns with a pinch of salt, chopped shallots, and pepper. Let the prawns sit in this marinade for about 10-15 minutes.
Then, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into thin matchsticks. Once this is done, soak them in salt water for approximately 15 minutes. After soaking, rinse the sweet potatoes briefly under running water. Then, strain them well to remove excess water before proceeding to the next step.
For the herbs, you’ll want to start by thoroughly washing your lettuce, Vietnamese coriander, and Thai basil. Once they’re clean, soak them in salt water for a few minutes. After soaking, remove them from the salt water and allow them to drain thoroughly to get rid of any excess water.
Step 2: Preparing the Batter
In a large bowl, sieve all the flours to ensure a smooth consistency. Then, add in the salt, turmeric powder and the lightly beaten egg. Begin stirring to combine these ingredients.
Gradually add water to the mixture. Pour the water slowly to better control the consistency of the batter; if the batter is too thin, your fritters won’t be crispy. Stir everything together until well combined. If the batter still seems dry and there’s not enough water, don’t hesitate to add a little more water and knead the batter until it reaches the right consistency.
Once everything is well combined, strain the batter one more time into a fresh bowl to remove any lumps. Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the batter to rest for about 30 minutes.
Step 3: Preparing the Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
Nuoc Cham is the heart and soul of many Vietnamese dishes, and it is surprisingly simple to make.
Start by dissolving sugar in warm water in a bowl. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then, add the Nuoc Mam sauce, giving a good stir to combine it with the sugar water. Next, squeeze in the lime juice.
Now it’s time to add some flavor punch! Mince the garlic and the chili pepper. Be careful with the chili, as it can be quite spicy. If you don’t want your sauce too hot, you can remove the seeds before mincing. Add the minced garlic and chili to the sauce and stir well.
Step 4: Frying the Fritters
Heat a generous amount of oil in a deep fryer or a large pan. The oil should be enough to completely submerge the fritters. While waiting for the oil to reach the perfect temperature, take the sweet potato matchsticks, and dip them into the batter.
Ensure that the sweet potatoes are completely coated with the batter. Then, gently place a handful of sweet potato matchsticks into the hot oil. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan as it can lower the oil temperature, resulting in less crispy fritters.
Once the sweet potato and batter have formed a shape and turned a light golden color, carefully remove them from the oil and let them cool slightly.
Step 5: Frying with Prawns
While the sweet potato fritters are cooling slightly, take one of the marinated prawns and dip one side into the batter. Then, place the prawn (batter-side down) onto the slightly cooled sweet potato fritter. Now, gently transfer the combination of sweet potato fritter and prawn back into the hot oil for further frying.
Be careful during this process to ensure the prawn does not detach from the fritter.
Fry the fritters until they turn golden brown, indicating that they are perfectly cooked. This process should take about 3-5 minutes. Remember to flip the fritters occasionally to ensure they are evenly cooked.
Once the fritters are done, use a slotted spoon to take them out of the oil. This will allow excess oil to drip off. Then, place them on a wire rack or paper towels to drain any remaining oil. Repeat this process until all the batter is used up.
Serve the Banh Tom fritters with a side of herbs and the prepared Nuoc Cham dipping sauce to enhance the flavors of the dish. The fresh herbs and tangy, sweet, and spicy dipping sauce will complement the crunchy fritters perfectly, providing a true Vietnamese culinary experience. If you want a different kick of flavor, you can switch out the Nuoc Cham for a chili sauce. Enjoy this exquisite dish fresh and hot for the best experience.
Banh Tom can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways depending on your preference. It can serve as a main dish accompanied by a variety of herbs to enhance its fiber and nutritional content. On the other hand, these crispy fritters can also be savored as a standalone snack, making for a delightful munch during any time of the day. The flexibility in how you choose to relish this delicacy only adds to its charm and popularity.
Some Tips to Remember:
- Quality of Ingredients: Always use fresh prawns and sweet potatoes. The quality of your ingredients directly impacts the taste of your Banh Tom.
- Cutting the Sweet Potatoes: Cut the sweet potatoes thinly to achieve a crisp texture. If you cut the sweet potatoes thicker, they will retain their sweetness but take longer to cook, which could potentially burn the other ingredients.
- Batter Consistency: Be mindful of the batter consistency. Too thin and your fritters may not be crispy; too thick and they might become doughy inside.
- Oil Temperature: The right oil temperature is crucial for perfect fritters. If the oil is too hot, the fritters may burn outside while being undercooked inside. If the oil is not hot enough, the fritters may absorb too much oil and become greasy.
- Frying Method: Don’t overcrowd your pan when frying, this can decrease the oil’s temperature and result in less crispy fritters.
- Draining Excess Oil: Drain the fritters effectively after frying to ensure they are not overly greasy. Using a wire rack can help achieve this.
Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be disheartened if your first batch doesn’t turn out as expected. Keep trying and soon you’ll be making perfect Banh Tom at home!
Storage and Reheating Instructions:
Proper storage is key to enjoying leftover Banh Tom. After they have cooled completely, place them in an airtight container or wrap them individually with cling wrap. You can store these in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To reheat, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the fritters on a baking sheet and bake until they are heated through and crispy again. This should take about 10-15 minutes if they were refrigerated. Always remember to reheat only the amount you plan to consume. Enjoy your Banh Tom as if it were freshly made!
Banh Tom is a delightful and incredibly versatile Vietnamese delicacy. From savoring it as a snack, to serving it as a main dish with herbs, these crispy fritters will not disappoint! Whether you are an experienced chef or just starting out in the kitchen, this recipe should be easy to follow.
Give Banh Tom a try today for a flavor-packed culinary experience.
What Is The History Of Banh Tom?
Banh Tom is believed to have originated from the Spanish dish, Tortillas de Camarones, which was introduced to Vietnam during the French and Spanish occupation of the country’s major cities from 1858 to 1862. The Spanish influence resulted in the fusion of local Vietnamese ingredients with the Spanish cooking technique of frying small seafood in a batter, eventually leading to the creation of Banh Tom. This dish has since evolved to suit the local taste, making it a distinct Vietnamese delicacy.
How Do You Eat Banh Tom?
Banh Tom is best enjoyed by wrapping a fritter in lettuce, Vietnamese coriander, basil, and any other herbs that you prefer. Once you’ve created this flavorful bundle, dip it into the Nuoc Cham sauce, ensuring a generous coating. Then, simply take a bite and enjoy the explosion of flavors. The crispiness of the fritter combined with the freshness of the herbs and the tangy, sweet, and spicy dip makes for a truly unforgettable culinary experience.
I’m Godfrey Jensen, CEO and head chef at Lapps Meats. We’re a top-quality butcher with over 70 years of experience. Our goal is to provide our customers with the best, freshest products possible. We take our food seriously, and we love serving the community by providing them with quality meat products.