what will you need
Chinese Mustard Green – Also known as cải bẹ xanh in Vietnamese. No need for an Asian grocery store. You can easily find these in almost every grocery store here in California. Chinese mustard greens have a slightly bitter undertone that is steamed in hot broth. My kids who are picky little eaters have no problem with these veggies.
If you can’t find Chinese mustard greens, you can substitute kohlrabi or spinach instead.
shrimp — Use peeled and deveined shrimp to save time. Mash the shrimp into a fine paste. I like to use a mortar and pestle. This creates the perfect bouncy, bouncy texture. You can also put the shrimp in a ziplock bag and mash them up with something heavy like a rolling pin. Alternatively, you can puree it in a food processor. Chopping in a food processor won’t create a bouncy, springy texture, but it’s a lot quicker.
If you’re feeling super lazy, um, sis, skip the smashing and leave ’em whole.
Shrimp cook very quickly so avoid overcooking which results in a rubbery texture. I like to add them at about the same time as the mustard greens.
tapioca starch — Some starch binds the shrimp balls together. Tapioca starch also provides a velvety texture. Rule out if you just add whole shrimp.
fish sauce — The most important flavoring substance of Southeast Asia.
Salt — Some salt, because too much of a good thing (fish sauce) can lead to a fishy smell.
sugar — A little is needed to balance the salt and fish sauce.
Chicken or mushroom broth powder — The ultimate Vietnamese comfort food cheat and why our moms’ soups taste so good. Yes, it does contain a bit of MSG. Yes, you can omit it and replace it with some salt.
Ground black pepper — The finishing touch for the peppery aroma.
garlic — Our main flavor here, but you can substitute sliced shallots, white spring onions, any onion bulb, or ginger.
neutral oil — Just a little to get the flavor of the garlic going. I use vegetable oil.