Cooking Like A Mexican

Shrimp balls, Mexican style

Shrimp balls, Mexican style

Best known as a Chinese dish, shrimp balls are a tasty treat in any country. In Mexico, you can’t beat the shrimp ball recipe from the La Manzanilla restaurant in Ensenada, featured below.

The northern Baja city is one of the oldest of Baja. Ensenada has a big bay and lots and lots of shrimp boats right off shore. Some say too many of those, as they shine lights at night and may, (or may not), be over shrimping.

shrimpballs.jpgEnsenada’s economy is based on tourism, fishing, and agriculture. And they do have a few maquiladora  manufacturing plants. It is a strategic port, as it is near the way more expensive California ports, as well as ports in Guatemala, Chile and others further south.

But the freshest clams, shrimp, oysters, scallops, lobster, and even octopus, is what the Gringos like about Ensenada. The lobster is actually crayfish, and can’t compete with the Maine lobster Americans expect and are willing to pay dearly for, but it’s OK.

But the shrimp! The Ensenada shrimp! Ensenada restaurants sometimes send a small boat out to the shrimp boats and buy them out the back door of the boat. The shrimp are so fresh, they’re still toweling off.

Can’t do that? Don’t have a row boat? As you come into town, on your right, across from the giant blow up gorilla hanging in front of the girly joint, you will be accosted by a gauntlet of  fresh seafood taco joints flapping their menus at you. Every taqueria on the pier has an aggressive snagger on the street, ready to put their body in front of every car if you’re sporting California license plates. They jump out in front of you, imploring you to come on in for a fresh shrimp taco. They can usually find you a sort of parking space, too.

But the shrimp balls of Ensenada! They’re special.

Today Ensenada has the largest wine production facilities in Mexico, and is specifically famous as the cradle of great cooks and chefs who have settled in the Guadalupe Valley, just outside of Ensenada. This is where the valleys, vineyards and ocean combine to give Ensenada’s cuisine a worldwide reputation.

So here goes, the La Manzanilla shrimp ball recipe. Try to enjoy them even though they will lack the excitement and color of saving the life of your host as you swerve to miss him, then shoe horn your car into an illegal spot that they will watch for you while you sit on a wooden bench on the pier, eat your shrimp balls, and watch the shrimpers work the bay.


For the broth:

1 cup of dry shrimp (all supermarkets have them)

2 cups of cocktail sized shrimp

4 dry chiles (the ones that come in a bag, they look red or brown, any kind will do)

1 tomato

1 beer

4 cups of water

Fresh herbs, the kind you like

4 garlic cloves

½ onion of regular size

10 springs or branches of cilantro

1 canned chipotle chile

For the balls:

1 lb of fresh shrimp

½ onion

3 cloves of garlic

3 branches of cilantro

1 branch of peppermint

2 branches of parsley

oil as needed

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of ginger

Procedure for the broth:

Cut the onion and the tomatoes in quarters. Put them into a hot casserole with olive oil and add the dry shrimp. Cook at high until everything is light brown.

Add the fresh shrimp and pour the beer. Let the alcohol to evaporate.

Add water and the dry chiles, just like that. Let cook for about 40 minutes, add the chipotle chile, mix and strain. Put this into a pot and reserve.

Procedure for the balls:

Cut the fresh shrimp without the shell in very small cubes, you can use a food processor if you like, and place them in a bowl.

Add the onion, garlic and herbs, all finely chopped. Add the tomato, which you previously boil and peel, the chipotle chile and grated ginger.

Mix everything until all the ingredients are integrated and make small balls with your hands. (Like a golf ball size).

Place the shrimp balls into the pot with the broth. Boil for four minutes, and serve.

You can serve this with some rice at the side or vegetables.