The universe has been pushing me to attempt to sculpt my food. A few weeks ago, on the Gourmet show on PBS there was a whole episode about food impersonator (fine cakes, Michel Richard). In that episode, there was a whole thing about Buddhist Thai cuisine with its amazing meat simalcra. Then, today, on Kylie Kwong, there was another mention of Chinese Buddhist cuisine. I felt moved to make some fake shrimp; those crustaceans are so small that it should be easy to fake them. There is a virtual Chinese Take Out dinner party going on at Mochachocolatarita to celebrate her 88th post, and I thought all signs were pointing to me making a Buddhist Vegetarian dish to take to the party.
Very strict Buddhists are vegetarians. In many places (China, Japan, and Thailand), a specific cuisine grew up around these monasteries. One of the highlights was the use of high quality and realistic "meats." For the shrimp, I used eggplant. I looked all over the internet to figure out what the real Buddhist shrimp was made from, but I couldn't find out (duck is often made of tofu and yuba, and ham from seitan). So, I decided eggplant had a similar texture.
I wanted to use the shrimp in something that would highlight its brininess. So, I settled on dim sum. While it isn't strict take-out food, it seemed like the best thing for my fake shrimp. I have had Chinese Dim Sum by Lee Hwa Lin for almost twenty years but I have not once made dim sum (though I have read it cover to cover many times). Intermittently over the years, Chinese restaurants in Cleveland have had passable dim sum, and I have had excellent dim sum in San Francisco, London and Hong Kong.
The dim sum standard shrimp rice noodle seemed perfect. As this was a whim, I didn't have the energy to make rice noodles. I used a rice paper wrapper.
To get the flavor of the sea (I won't say shrimp), I boiled eggplant with asofoetida, konbu, salt, sesame seeds. Then I decorated my briny lovelies with vegetable-based food coloring. I topped the dim sum with garlic chives and tamari. Paired with jasmine tea, this was enjoyable and filled the void of the original--though it wasn't really like it.