The first time I tried this shrimp katsu bao bun was in a Japanese ramen shop in Astoria, Queens. The flavor profile reminded me of fish & chips with tartar sauce or McDonald’s filet-o-fish! So, I created this with that in mind, and the result was better than I expected.
The crispy panko-crusted butterflied shrimp makes this an extra indulgent bao, and while the tartar sauce is rich and tangy, it helps cut through the grease quite well. Any garnish or greens would work in the filling, but I opted for red leaf lettuce and cilantro!
Fresh homemade bao buns are superior to the pre-made store-bought ones, so I highly recommend making them yourself! You can check out my Steamed Bao Bun recipe here. They store extremely well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch ahead of time and enjoy them whenever you want.
Why you’ll love this recipe
You must admit, everything tastes better when enveloped in pillowy soft bao buns – and this crispy shrimp bao bun dish is no exception! The crunchy coating and succulent shrimp create a nice contrast against the bao buns.
If that’s not enough, have I mentioned how easy and quick these crispy shrimp bao buns are to make? From dredging, frying, and assembling, it only takes about 35 minutes to prepare – so you can have this for lunch or dinner any day of the week!
How do I prepare Crispy Shrimp Bao Bun?
To make these deliciously irresistible crispy shrimp bao bun, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Make the tartar sauce
In a bowl, combine mayo, onion, pickles, sugar, lemon juice, and paprika. Mix them together well and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Step 2: Steam the bao buns
If you’re using store-bought bao buns, steam them according to their package instructions. If you’re making bao buns from scratch, follow my recipe and keep them warm until you’re ready to assemble the dish.
Step 3: Prepare the shrimp
Butterfly the shrimp by slicing it down the middle on the underside without cutting all the way through. Lay them out on a paper towel and pat down dry. Then, season them with salt and pepper.
Step 4: Prepare the dry dredge
Combine flour, salt, black pepper, and chili powder in a bowl or shallow plate.
Step 5: Prepare the eggs
In another bowl, crack the eggs and whisk together with water.
Step 6: Prepare the panko breading
In a third bowl, combine panko, salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Mix them thoroughly until they’re well combined.
Step 7: Preheat the oil
In a deep pot, pour neutral oil about halfway up. Then, heat to 375°F (190°C).
Step 8: Dredge the shrimp
Place the shrimp into the dry dredge, coating evenly on both sides. Then, dip the shrimp into the egg wash before transferring it to the panko breading. Make sure to press the breadcrumbs into the shrimp to help it adhere better.
Step 9: Fry the shrimp
Fry for 1 minute or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle a pinch of flakey salt on top while still hot.
Step 10: Assemble the bao buns
To assemble, open up the bao bun and layer it with lettuce, fried shrimp, a big spoonful of tartar sauce, and cilantro for garnish.
Step 11: Serve
Serve the bao buns immediately, and enjoy!
Cooking Tips for Crispy Shrimp Bao Bun
To help make the process of cooking these shrimp bao buns easier, here are a few tips you can keep in mind:
- The longer you let the shrimp marinade with salt and pepper, the more flavorful it will be.
- Remember to keep an eye on the shrimp when frying since they burn easily. To prevent this, remove them from the heat immediately once they turn golden brown.
- Occasionally strain floating bread crumbs from the oil so they don’t burn when frying.
- Feel free to adjust how much chili powder and paprika you want to add according to your preferred spice level.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Bao buns: you can use store-bought bao buns for this dish or make my bao buns recipe in advance.
Shrimp: shrimp is the star of this dish, but you can also substitute it with your preferred seafood, such as prawns, scallops, squid, or fish.
Salt: salt helps flavor the dish, so I add it to the dry dredge and panko breading mixture.
Ground black pepper: ground black pepper is also an essential seasoning for this dish since it helps enhance its flavor. In a pinch, you can also use ground white pepper.
Lettuce: lettuce adds freshness and a crunchy texture to the bao buns. But you can replace them with your preferred leafy greens, including spinach or kale.
Flakey salt: I like to finish the shrimp with some flakey salt after frying to add more flavor to them. But you can also use regular salt.
Cilantro: cilantro adds peppery and citrusy flavors to compliment the shrimp and tartar sauce. But if you’re not too fond of its taste, you can switch it for parsley.
Neutral oil: any neutral oil will do well for frying the shrimp, including vegetable, peanut, avocado, or sunflower oil.
All-purpose flour: all-purpose flour is the base for the dredge, but you can also substitute it with cornstarch.
Chili powder: chili powder will add a spicy kick to the dry dredge and panko breading mixture, but you can also use paprika, cayenne, or chili flakes.
Eggs: eggs will help the panko bread crumbs stick to the shrimp.
Water: water helps thin out the consistency of the eggs.
Panko breadcrumbs: panko breadcrumbs are the final layer of the coating that makes the shrimp extra crispy. If you can’t find them in the store you can use regular breadcrumbs.
Mayonnaise: mayonnaise is the base of the tartar sauce. Feel free to use Japanese or regular mayo for this recipe.
Onion: onions add an umami flavor to the tartar sauce. In a pinch, you can use onion powder, but the flavors won’t be as potent.
Pickles: pickles build the sour and salty flavors of the sauce. You can also use pickle relish as a substitute.
Sugar: sugar will balance out the salty and tangy flavor of the tartar sauce. I recommend you use white sugar for this recipe so it won’t alter the color of the sauce.
Lemon juice: top the tartar sauce with lemon juice to add a tangy flavor. In a pinch, you can substitute it with bottled lemon juice or fresh lime juice.
Paprika: a dash of paprika will spice up the sauce. But you can also use chili or cayenne powder.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you keep bao buns warm?
Since you’ll be streaming the bao buns in preparation for this dish, you can keep them warm inside the steamer with the lid closed. Refrain from opening the lid frequently so the steam and heat won’t escape and lower the internal temperature of the steamer. Only take the bao buns out when you’re ready to assemble your meal.
Flakey salt vs. regular salt
Flakey salt is a type of sea salt with a rough and flakey texture. It’s often used for ‘finishing’ or sprinkling more seasoning on dishes to add more flavor. Because of its shape, it dissolves faster and sticks better to food than regular salt.
Can you store Crispy Shrimp Bao Bun?
It’s best to store the bao buns and the shrimp filling separately since the sauce can make the buns soggy. Make sure to wrap the bao buns with plastic wrap, and store the shrimp in an airtight container. If you want to reheat them, re-steam the bao buns and re-fry the shrimp in a lan for 1-2 minutes until hot.
Looking for more easy and delicious seafood recipes?
1. Korean Marinated Salmon Sashimi – if you want to treat yourself to a delicious salmon dish, I highly recommend this recipe. The raw salmon is marinated in a rich and savory soy marinade that will make you beg for second or third helpings of rice!
2. Thai Shrimp Green Curry with Vegetables – if you’re craving a fragrant and spicy curry dish, you’ll want to try this recipe. The shrimp and vegetables are soaked in a creamy coconut milk broth that’s finished with the vibrant flavors of Thai basil leaves.
3. Crispy Beer Battered Fish Tacos – deep-fried fish, spicy kimchi, and creamy avocado, what more can you want in a taco? Its medley of flavors and textures makes it the perfect dish to share with friends and family!
4. Korean Mussel Soup (Hong Hap Tang) – for a light and refreshing soup with a nice little kick, I highly recommend this delicious mussel soup. Pair it with a slice or two of buttery garlic bread, and you have a hearty soup for any season.
5. Uni Toast – spice up your egg toast by adding sweet, savory, and briny uni (fish roe). Its melt-in-your-mouth texture, married with the creaminess of the eggs, makes it a decadent dish you won’t be able to resist.
Shrimp Bao Bun
- 4 bao buns see note 1
- 4 shrimp peeled + deveined
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 pieces of lettuce
- pinch of flakey salt
- cilantro for garnish
- neutral oil for frying
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup onion minced
- 3 tbsp pickles minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- In a bowl, combine all the tartar sauce ingredients. Mix together well and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Steam the bao buns (see note 1) and keep warm until ready to assemble
- Butterfly the shrimp by slicing it down the middle on the underside without cutting all the way through. Lay them out on a papertowel and pat down dry. Next, season with salt and pepper.
- For the dry dredge, combine flour, salt, black pepper, and chili powder in a bowl or shallow plate.
- In another bowl, crack the eggs and whisk together with water.
- For the panko breading, combine panko, salt, black pepper and chili powder. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
- In a deep pot, pour neutral oil about half way up. Heat to 375F/190C.
- Coat the shrimp in the dry dredge then into the egg wash.
- Place the shrimp into the dry dredge, making sure to coat well on both sides. Dip the shrimp into the egg wash. Next, transfer to the panko breading. Press the breadcrumbs into the shrimp to help it adhere better.
- Fry for 1 minute or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle a pinch of flakey salt on top while still hot.
- To assemble, open up the bao bun and layer it with lettuce, fried shrimp, a big spoonful of tartar sauce, and cilantro for garnish.
- Serve and enjoy!
- If using store-bought bao buns, steam by following the package instructions. If making bao buns from scratch, check out my Steamed Bao Bun recipe.
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