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Sweet Potato and Shrimp Cakes with Nuoc Cham

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas
Active time 32 mins
Total time 32 mins

Serves 4 (serving size: 2 cakes and about 2 tbsp. sauce)

I consider this dish a modern Vietnamese cook's interpretation of a classic. If you can find white sweet potatoes, use them--they're drier and less sweet than their orange cousins, but traditional sweet potatoes will work just fine, too. Place the dipping sauce in a bowl surrounded by the lettuce and herbs so guests can build their own lettuce wraps as they like. If your family enjoys crab cakes or salmon cakes, break out this recipe to expand the weeknight menu rotation and give everyone a chance to practice their chopstick skills. This dish cooks from start to finish in only about 30 minutes.


  • 2 cups grated peeled white or orange sweet potato (about 8 oz.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 4 ounces medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour (such as Bob's Red Mill)
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Thai chile, thinly sliced
  • 8 butter lettuce leaves or other soft lettuce leaves
  • 8 cilantro sprigs
  • 4 mint sprigs

Nutrition Information

  • calories 258
  • fat 15.7 g
  • satfat 1.5 g
  • monofat 9.4 g
  • polyfat 4.3 g
  • protein 8 g
  • carbohydrate 23 g
  • fiber 3 g
  • cholesterol 82 mg
  • iron 1 mg
  • sodium 394 mg
  • calcium 53 mg
  • sugars 7 g
  • Est. Added Sugars 3 g

How to Make It

  1. Combine potato and salt in a bowl; gently massage with your hands until potato mixture is moist and limp. Rinse potato mixture; drain. Place potato mixture in paper towels; squeeze to remove excess liquid. Place potato mixture, shallots, and shrimp in a bowl, stirring to combine. Stir in flours, 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, pepper, and egg. Divide and shape potato mixture into 8 (3-inch) cakes.

  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add 4 cakes to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crisp. Remove cakes from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 cakes and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Keep warm.

  3. Combine sugar, 2 tablespoons water, juice, and vinegar in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons fish sauce, carrot, garlic, and chile; let stand 15 minutes, or refrigerate up to 3 days.

  4. Serve potato cakes with sauce, lettuce leaves, cilantro, and mint.

The Pho Cookbook. Ten Speed Press, $22, on sale Feb. 7, 2017.