For Satisfying Shrimp Toast With Every Bite, Choose Your Bread Wisely

Cantonese shrimp toast, is a uniquely delicious treat. But for the uninitiated, the dish might look quite different from the toasts you're used to. This shrimp toast, which is popular in Chinese eateries and dim sum parlors, is essentially a piece of bread spread with aromatic herbed shrimp paste. It gets fried in oil, then sliced diagonally into four pieces for easy pickup as an appetizer or snack. While it's easy to eat, the dish is not quite as simple to make, requiring specific shrimp-paste ingredients and crucially, the right type of bread.  

After shrimp toast emerged in the Guangdong Province of China, the dish gained steam across Asia and now appears in worldwide food venues. Given its appropriation onto global menus, the traditional square sandwich bread used for shrimp toast was bound to get some competition. Many still advocate for the simplicity of sandwich bread, as it holds up to heat and is easy to fry and hold. But another style of bread holds promise for shrimp-bread dominance — a French or Italian baguette.   

Baguettes hold their own as a base for shrimp toast

Shrimp toast needs a bread base that's sturdy yet manageable. In that sense, it's somewhat surprising that traditional white sandwich bread is the to-go choice for most shrimp toast recipes. The bread, laden with paste, gets shallow- or deep-fried in oil, leaving the relatively thin and absorbent nature of sandwich bread vulnerable to becoming floppy with an oily texture and taste. That's alleviated somewhat by the practice of coating shrimp bread with crunchy sesame seeds. 

Enter the crispy-crusted options such as French or Italian baguettes. True, it's not what you find in a classic shrimp toast, but the merits of baguettes are worth consideration. First of all, the baguette is long with a relatively compact circumference, making it supremely holdable without the need for four-way triangular slicing. Minimal cutting of a typical baguette provides dozens of bread pieces in a ready-made size for spreading with shrimp paste. When subsequently lowered into hot oil for frying, the outer crust absorbs less oil than sandwich bread, resulting in light, crunchy two-bite wonders. 

It's possible to use any bread you like for making shrimp toast, as long as you're aware of its structure and its ability to hold up under hot-oil frying. Experimentation is key; you might even find interesting new iterations of this classic Chinese snack when using international breads such as naan, pan Cubano, pai bao, Irish soda bread, or others.