Saturday, April 5, 2008

Shrimp pancakes (tortillas de camarón)

These crispy little shrimp pancakes are a Cadiz speciality. They’re very easy to make (and the homemade versions are much better than anything you can buy in a restaurant). They’re made with tiny live shrimps, which are sold by the cupful from a wooden crate by old-timers in the market. You put the shrimps whole into the batter mix, where they wriggle around for a bit before slowly expiring (and what better way to go). If you can’t get hold of live shrimps, then substitute them with small peeled prawns.

250 g chickpea flour
200 g plain flour
6 spring onions
water (about 500 ml)
250 g of live shrimps (or small peeled prawns)
olive oil for frying

  1. Mix the flour in a large bowl, season with salt, a handful of chopped parsley, and the finely chopped spring onions. Add water until you have a smooth batter – neither too runny nor too thick. Add the shrimps and mix.
  2. Heat a good quantity of oil in a large frying pan (the oil should be about 1 cm deep). When the oil is hot (but not smoking), add large spoonfuls of the mixture. (The mixture should spread to form a roundish pancake; if it breaks up, then the mixture is too runny; if it fails to spread properly, then it is too thick.) Fry the pancakes for about 30 seconds, then turn carefully and cook for another 30 seconds before removing from the oil.
Don't play with your food

Street food
As far as I can tell, Spain (or at least Andalucia) doesn't have a big tradition of street food. I'm not sure why this is. Anyway, one exception in Cadiz is el Media Barba and his shrimp pancake cart, which appears in the centre of town on Sundays and during Carnival. To see how the pancakes are made (and why he is called Media Barba [Half Beard]) click on this video link.

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